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Author Topic:   Creationist problems with radiocarbon dating
Coyote
Member (Idle past 495 days)
Posts: 6117
Joined: 01-12-2008


Message 1 of 194 (556344)
04-19-2010 10:07 AM


An exchange with Calibrated Thinker from another thread:

Calibrated Thinker writes:

Coyote writes:

Creation.com has the following in their "Age of the earth" page:

Radiometric dating
51. Carbon-14 in coal suggests ages of thousands of years and clearly contradict ages of millions of years.
52. Carbon-14 in oil again suggests ages of thousands, not millions, of years.
53. Carbon-14 in fossil wood also indicates ages of thousands, not millions, of years.
54. Carbon-14 in diamonds suggests ages of thousands, not billions, of years.

All four of these are absolutely wrong and reflect common errors passed from one creationist website to another.

If you want to debate these I'd be happy to oblige--on a different thread. Find one of the radiocarbon threads and post this and I'll show you where each is absolutely wrong.

What repeatable, verifiable evidence can you provide that confirms the accuracy of any of the radiometric dating methods currently used today.

I feel quite sure that we will have to agree to disagree on the veracity of dating techniques, but if you wish to go through the usual arguments, I can oblige but it is likely going to a repetition of the same debate.

I live in a coal mining town in Australia and see first hand a massive volume of evidence for a massive flood event on a whole planet scale. Interestingly atop and below each coal seam are leaves sticks and twigs that are still wood, and look very much like leaves and twigs that you find on the forest floor when bush walking. Obviously the temperature was insufficient at the margins to convert this material to anthracite as is the case only centimetres away.
By the way these coal seams are about 150 metres to 200 metres below the surface under a range of sedimentary strata that all have knife edge boundaries in the horizontal plane. My point being that this is typical of rapid deposition. Interestingly enough these are dated by radiometric methods as being late Permian 255 Ma. Amazing that sticks and leaves have lasted that long without deterioration don't you think. The seams are exposed in huge open cut pits.

The RD age doesn't fit the logical explanation that the coal and the sticks aren't as old as many would like make out. This is not hearsay, I'm talking about what I see with my own eyes.
It is the interpretation that dictates the result. ...

Go for it, the dialogue could hopefully prove to be stimulating.

I propose this thread to examine creationist claims about radiocarbon dating, and in particular the purportedly young ages that are sometimes found in materials that are actually very old.

This is important because these supposedly young ages are being used to "prove" a young earth.


Religious belief does not constitute scientific evidence, nor does it convey scientific knowledge.

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Coyote
Member (Idle past 495 days)
Posts: 6117
Joined: 01-12-2008


Message 4 of 194 (556369)
04-19-2010 11:59 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Coyote
04-19-2010 10:07 AM


C14 in diamonds
Lets address the C14 in diamonds issue first. Here is a link to a paper on the subject (abstract only; article must be purchased):

Taylor and Southon (2007)

Use of natural diamonds to monitor 14C AMS instrument backgrounds

R.E. Taylor and John Southon

Abstract

To examine one component of the instrument-based background in the University of California Keck Carbon Cycle AMS spectrometer, we have obtained measurements on a set of natural diamonds pressed into sample holders. Natural diamond samples (N = 14) from different sources within rock formations with geological ages greatly in excess of 100 Ma yielded a range of currents (not, vert, similar110–250 μA 12C− where filamentous graphite typically yields not, vert, similar150 μA 12C− and apparent 14C ages (64.9 ± 0.4 ka BP [0.00031 ± 0.00002 fm] to 80.0 ± 1.1 ka BP [0.00005 ± 0.00001 fm]). Six fragments cut from a single diamond exhibited essentially identical 14C values – 69.3 ± 0.5 ka–70.6 ± 0.5 ka BP. The oldest 14C age equivalents were measured on natural diamonds which exhibited the highest current yields.

What this shows is that the residual C14 is a result of instrument background. The entire Taylor and Southon experiment was designed to measure that residual background in their equipment.

Additional information can be found here.

Edited by Coyote, : Spelling


Religious belief does not constitute scientific evidence, nor does it convey scientific knowledge.

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Coyote
Member (Idle past 495 days)
Posts: 6117
Joined: 01-12-2008


Message 6 of 194 (556372)
04-19-2010 12:08 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Coyote
04-19-2010 10:07 AM


Natural gas
Next lets look at the creationist claim about natural gas:

Natural gas from Alabama and Mississippi (Cretaceous and Eocene, respectively) — should have been 50 to 135 million years old. C14 gave dates of 30,000 and 34,000, respectively. (From Creation.com)

Analysis:

False information due to sloppy research and lack of familiarity with radiocarbon dating.

This was another difficult reference to track down because the original source is not provided. It appears that each creationist website just copies from the previous without checking the original citation. (The information in question originates in Radiocarbon, Vol. 8, page 200.)

The original source for the false information seems to be Ken Ham, Andrew Snelling, and Carl Weiland’s The Answers Book, published by Master Books, El Cajon, CA, in 1992 (page 73).

The original article in the journal Radiocarbon includes the following paragraphs describing these two samples:

I-1149. Sealy Springs well, Alabama — >34,000

From Sealy Springs Well, Cottonwood, Houston County, Alabama. Well yielding salt water and natural gas, probably from Upper Cretaceous Eutaw sandstone. Comment (D.R.B.): sample submitted as control. Infinite age as expected.

I-1150. Maxie Gas Field, Mississippi — >30,000

From Lower and Upper Cretaceous, and Eocene formations in Maxie Gas Field, Forrest County, Mississippi. Comment (D.R.B.): control sample yielding infitite age as expected.

Note the little “>” symbols in front of the dates? This means “greater than” and denotes that the measured ages reflect the limits of the instrumentation rather than an actual age. In other words, the creationists either goofed and missed the “>” symbols, or hoped that nobody would check up on their research.

Rather than serving as an example of the inaccuracy of radiocarbon dating, this refuted creationist claim serves as another example of the inaccuracy of creationist research.

Reference

Trautman, Milton A. and Eric H. Willis. Isotopes, Inc. Radiocarbon Measurements V. Radiocarbon, Vol. 8, 1966, pp. 161-203.

Note: the above is something I wrote a while back on a DarwinCentral.org blog.


Religious belief does not constitute scientific evidence, nor does it convey scientific knowledge.

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Coyote
Member (Idle past 495 days)
Posts: 6117
Joined: 01-12-2008


Message 7 of 194 (556373)
04-19-2010 12:18 PM
Reply to: Message 5 by Flyer75
04-19-2010 11:59 AM


Layman's terms
Coyote, can you put that in laymen's terms please.

In simple terms they put a variety of diamond samples into the Accelerator Mass Spectrometer, knowing that they contained no C14.

The results they got showed the residual C14 (extremely tiny amounts) in the machine they were using was simply instrument background.

The odd text in the abstract is some of the detail on how they know that this is instrument background rather than C14 in the diamonds. It involves fluctuations in the current feeding their ion source and correlation of the age results with those changing currents. If the C14 was in the diamond the results would not fluctuate with the current, but would remain the same. They concluded that they were seeing "ion source memory" (background) rather than C14 in ancient diamonds.

Hope this helps.


Religious belief does not constitute scientific evidence, nor does it convey scientific knowledge.

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Coyote
Member (Idle past 495 days)
Posts: 6117
Joined: 01-12-2008


Message 9 of 194 (556392)
04-19-2010 2:54 PM


Another flawed creationist claim
Another flawed creationist claim regarding radiocarbon dating and coal:

Coal from Russia from the “Pennsylvanian,” supposedly 300 million years old, was dated at 1,680 years. (Radiocarbon, vol. 8, 1966) Source

Analysis:

False information due to sloppy research.

This is a difficult reference to track down because the actual page number is not provided. It appears that each creationist website just copies from the previous without checking the original citation. (The information in question is on page 319.)

The original source for the false information seems to be Ken Ham, Andrew Snelling, and Carl Weiland’s The Answers Book, published by Master Books, El Cajon, CA, in 1992 (page 73).

The original article in the journal Radiocarbon includes the following paragraph describing this sample:

Mo-334. River Naryn, Kirgizia — 1680 ± 170. A.D. 270

Coal from the cultural layer on the left side of the r. Naryn (Kirgizian SSR), 3 km E of the mourh of the r. Alabuga (41° 25′ N Lat, 74° 40′ E Long). The sample was found at a depth of 7.6 m in the form of scattered coals in a loamy rock in deposits of a 26-m terrace. According to the archaeological estimations the sample dates from the 5 to 7th centuries A.D. The sample was found by K. V. Kurdyumov (Moscow State Univ.) in 1962. Comment: the find serves as a verification of archaeological data on the peopling of the Tien Shan.

What we have here is no more than shorthand or sloppy translation from the Russian! The coal is nothing more than charcoal from an archaeological deposit. This sample is even included in the section of the report dealing with archaeological samples, and the paragraph discusses archaeological data.

The odd use of terms is shown clearly in another radiocarbon date, Mo-353, reported on page 315 of the same article. It reads “Charcoal from cultural deposits of a fisher site. The coal was coll. from subturfic humified loam…”

But the term “coal” in place of “charcoal” was enough to fool Ken Ham, as well as dozens of subsequent creationists who apparently were salivating to find 300 million year old coal radiocarbon dated to recent times, and who repeated Ham’s false claim without bothering to check its accuracy.

The interesting question is where Ken Ham managed to find “Pennsylvanian” in that short paragraph, and where he dug up the date of 300 million years.

This is still another case where a creationist claim about science falls apart when examined more closely.

Reference

Vinogradov, A.P.; A.L. Devirts; E.I. Dobinka; and N.G. Markova. Radiocarbon dating in the Vernadsky Institute I-IV. Radiocarbon, Vol 8, 1966, pp. 292-323.

Note: this is something I wrote a while back as a DarwinCentral.org blog.


Religious belief does not constitute scientific evidence, nor does it convey scientific knowledge.

  
Coyote
Member (Idle past 495 days)
Posts: 6117
Joined: 01-12-2008


Message 10 of 194 (556393)
04-19-2010 3:06 PM


Still another
Still another flawed creationist claim:

Bones of a sabre-toothed tiger from the LaBrea Tar Pits (near Los Angeles), supposedly 100,000 to 1000,000 years old, gave a date of 28,000 years. (Radiocarbon, vol. 10, 1968) Source

Analysis:

The La Brea Tar Pits have been dated to approximately 9,000 to 40,000 years ago.

The original article, by Berger and Libby (1968) reported dates on 11 leg bones from sabre-tooth tigers (Smilodon californicus) recovered from the La Brea tar pits (there were 12 dates, as one bone, marked with a * below, was dated twice). These dates were:

UCLA-1292A — 21,400 ± 560*
UCLA-1292B — 12,650 ± 160
UCLA-1292C — 14,500 ± 190
UCLA-1292D — 28,000 ± 1400
UCLA-1292E — 14,400 ± 2100
UCLA-1292F — 14,950 ± 430
UCLA-1292G — 26,700 ± 900
UCLA-1292H — 21,750 ± 600
UCLA-1292I — 15,300 ± 200
UCLA-1292J — 20,500 ± 900*
UCLA-1292K — 19,300 ± 395
UCLA-1292L — 15,200 ± 800

This creationist claim is a mix of incorrect and incomplete data, and is used in a misleading manner in the original article in an attempt to cast doubt on the radiocarbon dating method.

Reference

Berger, Rainer and Willard F. Libby. UCLA Radiocarbon Dates VIII. Radiocarbon, Vol 10, No. 2, pp. 402-416.

Note: this is something I wrote a while ago for a DarwinCentral.org blog.


Religious belief does not constitute scientific evidence, nor does it convey scientific knowledge.

  
Coyote
Member (Idle past 495 days)
Posts: 6117
Joined: 01-12-2008


Message 12 of 194 (556400)
04-19-2010 4:20 PM
Reply to: Message 11 by kbertsche
04-19-2010 3:19 PM


Re: RATE
Thanks for that post. I hadn't realized you were the author of that analysis.

It appears very well done. I am particularly interested in the physics you discuss, as that is not my strong point; I do sample collection and interpretation (as an archaeologist), and I have studied those areas most intensely.


Religious belief does not constitute scientific evidence, nor does it convey scientific knowledge.

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Coyote
Member (Idle past 495 days)
Posts: 6117
Joined: 01-12-2008


Message 28 of 194 (556606)
04-20-2010 1:43 PM


Bump for Calibrated Thinker
Awaiting your responses.


Religious belief does not constitute scientific evidence, nor does it convey scientific knowledge.

  
Coyote
Member (Idle past 495 days)
Posts: 6117
Joined: 01-12-2008


Message 35 of 194 (556642)
04-20-2010 4:01 PM
Reply to: Message 31 by Dman
04-20-2010 3:19 PM


Ammonites
Not sure what's going on with the ammonites; I would have to see more details.

So once past conditions in the atmosphere and biosphere are taken into account, their true ages are consistent with their burial during the Genesis Flood only about 4,300 years ago, when the ocean waters washed sediments and ammonites onto the continents.

This is incorrect.

1) The current radiocarbon calibration curves take atmospheric fluctuations into account (as well as other effects). The effects are on the close order of 10% at their greatest, so even if they weren't accounted for the errors would not be great. Certainly they are not great enough to support a young earth.

2) There is no evidence for a flood about 4,300 years ago. I do archaeology and I deal with soils and cultural deposits of that age all the time. So do my colleagues, as well as geologists, sedimentologists, and other -ologists all around the world. There is no evidence of a flood in those deposits.


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Coyote
Member (Idle past 495 days)
Posts: 6117
Joined: 01-12-2008


Message 39 of 194 (556648)
04-20-2010 4:24 PM
Reply to: Message 37 by Dman
04-20-2010 4:13 PM


Re: Pretty easy even for me.
I read the paper, and would have to check with some of the techs at various labs for their opinions on those C14 levels.

But don't you find it interesting the gyrations creationists go through to make dates in the 30-40k range come out at 6k?

And they criticize scientists????


Religious belief does not constitute scientific evidence, nor does it convey scientific knowledge.

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Coyote
Member (Idle past 495 days)
Posts: 6117
Joined: 01-12-2008


Message 54 of 194 (556887)
04-21-2010 2:31 PM
Reply to: Message 51 by IchiBan
04-21-2010 1:58 PM


Re: RATE
The evolutionists such as coyote spend a lot of their time calling creationists works bad science and/or lying, but it is the evolutionists here who operate from anonymity making their charges while the creationists put their name on their works and when you read the articles you find them well sourced etc.

It seems all the evolutionist can do is throw his stones from the cloak of anonymity. That alone should be telling to an outsider observing the debate.


The real data, with names on the works, are in libraries and research institutions.

Don't get the idea that what is said on internet chat rooms has anything to do with the actual conduct of science.

(And if you look at my examples, upthread, you will note that I provided complete references.)


Religious belief does not constitute scientific evidence, nor does it convey scientific knowledge.

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Coyote
Member (Idle past 495 days)
Posts: 6117
Joined: 01-12-2008


Message 60 of 194 (556956)
04-21-2010 10:41 PM
Reply to: Message 59 by Flyer75
04-21-2010 10:19 PM


Re: RATE
I went over there and that's a ton to read from a laymen's perspective but I fail to see where anyone, kbertsche, Baumbgardner, or anyone over there is getting "their ass handed to them."

In science, you are either right or you lose a great deal of respect. There is no respect for errors. A scientist can admit uncertainty, and there is no discredit there (unless the answers are clearly known). But a scientists who publishes and defends what are clearly errors loses pretty much all credibility.

Given that, here are two things that may help you as a layman understand this better.

First, these measurements are generally being done out near the limits of the equipment. That's where things get a little less precise, or a lot less precise depending on the quality of the equipment and the care with which the samples are treated/pre-treated.

Second, pay attention to the claims being made about contamination, both in the initial sample and the inherent contamination from the sample preparation process.

Both of these factors combine to give C14 readings in "dead" samples. Scientists are aware of these problems, and attribute them, I think correctly, primarily to the causes I mentioned above.

Creationists, on the other hand, often refuse to acknowledge the contamination problems and the inherent variations in the equipment. They make a case for a young earth, in direct contradiction to huge masses of data from virtually all fields of science, based on tiny amounts of C14 in these "dead" samples. That is a huge conclusion, a huge "leap of faith" if you will, to be drawn from a few samples that can readily be explained by other means.

And there is no incentive for them to find "clean" samples. Given their presuppositions, they will want to find the contaminated samples because then they can make their case to those who aren't as familiar with the C14 process. Clean samples, for creationists, are a disaster.

Hope this helps.


Religious belief does not constitute scientific evidence, nor does it convey scientific knowledge.

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Coyote
Member (Idle past 495 days)
Posts: 6117
Joined: 01-12-2008


Message 67 of 194 (557179)
04-23-2010 12:24 PM
Reply to: Message 66 by IchiBan
04-23-2010 11:17 AM


Guess???
The end result is an estimate or guess of what the age of the article is, and it should be given no more weight than that.

Sorry, this is wrong. Radiocarbon dating provides a pretty accurate assessment of the age of an article when it is done correctly. And scientists have an incentive to do their dating correctly, as there is no respect in science for mistakes and even less for fraud.

But your problem seems to be that you don't like the results of radiocarbon dating.

You don't know the science behind radiocarbon or other forms of radiometric dating, but you come on here and tell scientists who do know -- and who have studied the field for decades -- how to go about their business.

Creation "science" as usual, eh?


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Coyote
Member (Idle past 495 days)
Posts: 6117
Joined: 01-12-2008


Message 71 of 194 (557189)
04-23-2010 1:51 PM
Reply to: Message 69 by IchiBan
04-23-2010 1:27 PM


Re: Guess???
Radio-carbon dating is a method of obtaining age estimates on organic materials. The word "estimates" is used because there is a significant amount of uncertainty in these measurements. Each sample type has specific problems associated with its use for dating purposes, including contamination and special environmental effects. More information on the sources of error in carbon dating are presented at the bottom of this page.

See the specific comments which follow.

As mentioned above, there is significant uncertainty in carbon dating. There are several variables that contribute to this uncertainty. First, as mentioned previously, the proportions of C-14 in the atmosphere in historic times is unknown. The C-14:C-12 atmospheric ratio is known to vary over time and it is not at all certain that the curve is “well behaved.”

That the levels of C14 in the atmosphere vary through time has been known for decades. De Vries published on that in 1958. That is why scientists have used a variety of methods to establish a calibration curve to account for that variation. That curve is based on tree rings, varves, corals and other annular data; and you know what? Those different methods are all in pretty close agreement!

Complicating things further, various plants have differing abilities to exclude significant proportions of the C-14 in their intake. This varies with environmental conditions as well. The varying rates at which C-14 is excluded in plants also means that the apparent age of a living animal may be affected by an animals diet. An animal that ingested plants with relatively low C-14 proportions would be dated older than their true age.

We know that! That is why radiocarbon dates are adjusted using the C13 level. Shellfish in my area often have a C13 of about 1.0 to -1.0, while plant material (and humans who feed on that plant material) are about -25.0. But recently I dated an individual who had a C13 of about -13.0 because he had a diet rich in marine organisms. So of course when I calibrated the date I used that information to correct the age; it reduced the age by some 400 years.

Attempts are often made to index C-14 proportions using samples of know age. While this may be useful to eliminate the uncertainty of atmospheric proportions of C-14, it does not compensate for local conditions such as which plant species are in the diet. The uncertainty in the measurement leads some to conclude that the method is far less predictive of age than is commonly supposed, especially for older samples

Again, C13 does correct for local plant species!

I haven't bothered to examine your source for these comments, but I'm not impressed.

(Scientists are not as dumb as some people would like to think.)


Religious belief does not constitute scientific evidence, nor does it convey scientific knowledge.

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Coyote
Member (Idle past 495 days)
Posts: 6117
Joined: 01-12-2008


Message 79 of 194 (557214)
04-23-2010 9:11 PM
Reply to: Message 75 by Flyer75
04-23-2010 6:57 PM


Carbon 14 dating information
Are or are there not some assumptions that come with this process? For example, nobody was around billions or millions of years ago to observe what the earth was going through at the time or what these samples went through as far as how they were affected by any sort of catastrophic event, and in discussing millions or billions of years, there's a good chance they went through quite a few catastrophic events, not just one.

Carbon 14 dating only goes back some 50,000 years or so. Some labs are experimenting with older ages, but those are not ready for prime time yet.

We do use assumptions in C14 dating, but fewer than you might expect. The primary one is that the decay constant has been constant. The other assumptions are generally things we can check on (see below):

One example, how do we know for certain what the initial amounts were to begin with? Isn't that an assumption? Has the rate of decay changed at all during time? How can anyone know that for certain?

The initial amounts for C14 dating are those in the atmosphere at a given point in the past, and we can test for those by dating tree rings, glacial or lake varves, or corals, etc. That allows us to correct for the atmospheric variation.

One last question that I have that doesn't pertain to assumptions is, is C14 dating only good for geological samples or also for biological samples, or in an idiot laymen's terms, for dead animals, plants, leaves, ect??? Thanks in advance for the responses.

Carbon 14 dating only works on things that contain carbon, such as any living organisms, as well as bone, shell, charcoal, etc. Soil, the atmosphere, and water contain carbon as well, and can also be dated.

Some good links:


ReligiousTolerance.org Carbon-14 Dating (C-14): Beliefs of New-Earth Creationists

Radiometric Dating: A Christian Perspective by Dr. Roger C. Wiens.

This site, BiblicalChronologist.org has a series of good articles on radiocarbon dating.

Are tree-ring chronologies reliable? (The Biblical Chronologist, Vol. 5, No. 1)

How does the radiocarbon dating method work? (The Biblical Chronologist, Vol. 5, No. 1)

How precise is radiocarbon dating?

Is radiocarbon dating based on assumptions?

Has radiocarbon dating been invalidated by unreasonable results?

Tree Ring and C14 Dating

Radiocarbon WEB-info Radiocarbon Laboratory, University of Waikato, New Zealand.

Radiocarbon -- full text of issues, 1959-2003.


Religious belief does not constitute scientific evidence, nor does it convey scientific knowledge.

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