One ostensibe philosophical complication with radio-carbon dating would be that if one were to assume non-uniform rates of isotope decay, the assumption - in order to maintain that the samples in question are actually younger than they appear - would be that decay rates were FASTER years ago. (I'll explain why this is philosophically problematic real soon).
It is as if we were looking at a tub of a dozen eggs that has come from the warehouse. Mr. Chicken, my co-worker, has established that eggs break exactly at a rate of one per week. We peer into the styrofoam tub and confirm that 8 eggs are broken. Mr. Chicken interjects, "Ah-hah! The tub left the warehouse 8 weeks ago!"
But I, who we will call The Ghost, interrupt him: "But, Mr. Chicken, eggs break more slowly now than they used to. Four of those eggs may have indeed broken within the last 4 weeks, but the other 4 were broken at a time when the break-rate was a whopping 2 a week. The tub left the warehouse 6 weeks ago....not 8 weeks ago."
Carrying the metaphor over into isotope decay rates, we would have to maintain that isotopes decay (assuming that a deceleration of isotope decay rates were uniform across ALL isotopes of any kind) more slowly now than they used to.
The philosophical problem is this: Since the Creationist Worldview (or at least a large segment of it) maintains that life in this universe has corrupted and decayed since the time of the Fall, it would not make sense to stipulate that things decay (including isotopes) more slowly NOW than they did at the beginning. To make the viewpoint consistent, the exact OPPOSITE would have to be the case: as a result of the curse of death and decay that the fallen world has come under, we would have to say that the rate of decay of things (including isotopes) is getting FASTER, not slower.
But, this is only an "ostensible" problem because of the wording involved. We use a word like "decay" to apply to isotopes merely out of semantic convenience. The word "decay" has loaded metaphysical connotations. But just because a mass of elements emits a set number of alpha-particles, resulting in a mass of newer, lighter elements, we need not call such a situation a "decay" in the more evasive metaphysical/spiritual sense. It could very well be that the strictly physical "decay" of isotopes somehow conduces to some sort of "building-up" in a more spiritual sense, whatever this may mean ultimately.
Incidentally, is there actual evidence that isotope decay-rates are slower now than they were, say, in the 1940's? This is my question.
*Caveat: more speculative monologue now ensues*
Also, incidentally - which would really come to the same question - is there any evidence that the speed of light is slower now than it was any number of years ago? A faster speed of "light" (or, which is the same thing, speed of physical causality) would result in a faster weak nuclear force field effect (i.e. an insufficiently fast neutron entering the weak nuclear field of an atom would be "spit out" out of the field that much more quickly because the increased rate of the causal relations between the field and the unwelcome neutron would outbalance the inertia of the mass of that neutron). Also, the tension that co-relates the strong field, the weak field, and the electro-magnetic field within the atom such that an atom of a given element has a decay-rate of "x" - this tension would be "resolved" more quickly with a faster rate of physical causality (i.e. speed of light), resulting in a quicker decay rate.
Sorry about that last paragraph. More knowledgeable physicists are welcome to debunk me (please do so, in fact: I want my inner spiritual tension between faith and unbelief resolved more quickly).
Thank you, NoNukes. Your answer to the effect that, most likely, c has not changed (or, indeed, that is increasing) is very enlightening. Question, though: what if, perhaps, the speed of light changed in one large quantum leap, if you will....sometime in the past (whether at the Flood or at the Fall)? Thus, we living after this event would not notice any changes in c during our epoch. In fact, might it not be possible that this quantum leap of sudden c-change (I don't know how to do italics here, sorry...let's just call it "charlie") was so large that it would more than balance any subsequent charlie-increase after the event? Thus, at least during our epoch, even if charlie is increasing it still won't reach the magnitude that this constant was pre-Fall/Flood.
Thank you, kofh2u, for those diagrams. I tried clicking on the blue links on the second diagram, but alas, nothing came up. What are the hypotheses as to what these diverse catastrophes are? The Flood, I imagine, would be one, but that wasn't in the Seven Day Creation Period. Did God's separating of the waters create sudden catastrophic sedimentary changes and perhaps cause crystals to be made of hydrates? Did the Spirit hovering over the face of the waters "blow" atmospheric elements like Nitrogen and Argon into rocks (Hebrew "Ruach" = Spirit or Wind)? I'm just throwing these out there because I couldn't match in my mind what physical catastrophes match with which epoch/Day.
NoNukes, thank you. As to what specific reason why I suggested a faster c in the past: I offered this because it is my own thought experiment to suggest a mechanism whereby decay rates would have been faster in the past (with a faster c, it's my suggestion that the faster rate of physical causality, which is essentially what c is, would not be limited to the electro-magnetic force, but would effect the weak force and strong force as well. I.e. the precarious tension between the weak, strong, and electro-magnetic forces that holds the particles of a carbon-14 atom together, would "resolve" more quickly if c - the rate or "speed" of physical causality - were faster. Thus, instead of a half-life of 5,700 years, it might have a much shorter half-life if there were a faster c.)
Edited by David Carroll, : The last sentence, originally, implied that a shorter half-life would result in ejected photons with a faster c...which is not what I meant.
Thank you, Coyote. It looks like I have yet more branches of science to study (terrestial and aquatic botany).
I don't have any charts available. Which isotope - if any - has a daughter decay isotope of carbon-14? Is it possible that the organisms in question contained this parent element, whatever that is?
Biology is not exactly my field of ken, so I appreciate the discussion. But, just throwing this out there, could we suggest that that ALL organisms originally had longer lifespans, and not just humans (i.e. Adam, Methusalah, etc.), and then would this have any effect on rates of coral accumulation, numbers of tree rings, etc.?
Good point, Dr. Adequate. This is why, if I can, I try to find hypotheses that would involve no deceiving on God's part but perhaps previous misunderstandings on our part.
I'm a Christian, yes. But I'm not wholeheartedly devoted either to uniformity/naturalism or to strict Creationism (whether of the Young Orb or Young Universe, or mid-life Spaghetti Monster, or whatever kind). I can go either way, philosophically. This is why I'd like to believe that I'm pretty objective about the matter than otherwise would be. There are reasons why strict Creationism is emotionally attractive to me and there are reasons why a hands-off God (scientifically) is emotionally attractive to me. But considering that accepting Creationism is much more intellectually taxing (even if only because of the availability of information from the one viewpoint and a dearth of information from the other viewpoint), I try to sustain this one in my mind....both because it is intellectually challenging, and therefore satisfying, to do so and because Creationist arguments necessarily imply the opposite as their counter-arguments (to study Creationism, given our current pedagogical/political milieu, is automatically to study the other arguments too - unless one is dealing with backward, intolerant fundies - whereas to study the "Other Side" doesn't necessarily imply a study of Creationism).