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Criticism of carbon dating

The relative width of the red calibration curve indicates the range of uncertainty: In October 2012, a team led by Christopher Ramsey of Oxford University published a new study, based on analyses of varves (alternating light/dark bands in sediments) from Lake Suigetsu, which is located about 350 kilometers west of Tokyo, near the coast of the Sea of Japan.These researchers collected core samples 70 meters deep, and then painstakingly counted the layers, year by year, to obtain a direct record stretching back 52,000 years.For instance, creationist Walt Brown has pointed out inconsistencies in some radiocarbon dates of mammoths -- one part was dated to 40,000 years, another to 26,000 years (and wood surrounding it to 10,000 years), and yet another to between 15,000 and 21,000 years before the present epoch [Brown2001].

These and numerous other claimed anomalies in radiocarbon dating are explained in detail in Mark Isaak's book [Isaak2007, pg. In short, while like any other method of scientific investigation, radiocarbon dating is subject to anomalies and misuse, when used correctly in accordance with well-established procedures and calibration schemes, the method is a very reliable means of dating relatively "recent" artifacts.

In other words, those hoping that uncertainties in radiocarbon dating, say in the assumption of constancy of atmospheric carbon-14 levels, will mean that specimens are really much younger than the measured dates, are in for a big disappointment -- it is now clear that specimens are actually somewhat older than the raw, uncalibrated reckonings.

As mentioned above, young-earth creationist writers have cited various anomalies and potential difficulties with radiocarbon dating, and have used these examples to justify their conclusion that the entire scheme is flawed and unreliable.

Creationists often criticize radiocarbon dating in the context of discussions of the age of the earth.

But, as is clear even from the very brief discussion in the previous paragraph, radiocarbon dating can say nothing one way or the other about whether the earth is many millions of years old, since such dates are far beyond this method's range of resolution.

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  1. Oct 18, 2012. Latest news and features on science issues that matter including earth, environment, and space. Get your science news from the most trusted source!

  2. May 20, 2014. At least to the uninitiated, carbon dating is generally assumed to be a sure-fire way to predict the age of any organism that once lived on our planet. Click to read more.

  3. May 31, 1990. Since 1947, scientists have reckoned the ages of many old objects by measuring the amounts of radioactive carbon they contain. New research shows, however, that some estimates based on carbon may have erred by thousands of years. It is too soon to know whether the discovery will seriously upset the.

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