EdElric wrote: Look carbon/radiometric dating up and it is not hard to find information from both people who rely on it and people who condemn it entirely as well as people in between. It is a very controversial subject and is continually under debate, just because you may not have heard of this conflict before does not mean I pulled it from an obscure source.
Archeology is a hobby of mine, so I do know a fair amount about carbon dating.
I would disagree with you that it is a “very controversial subject.” Globally it is highly regarded. YECs (mainly in the States) have created a false controversy simply because it goes against their view that the universe was created 6000 years ago. As such, the only people who find fault with radiocarbon dating are the same people who claim that there was some mythic ice or water barrier above the earth, the melting of that barrier created Noah’s flood, and the geologic column was created by the sediment created by the flood.
I have a few problems with your understanding of C14 dating...
Carbon dating is a dating method that measures the amount of carbon-14 (a radioactive isotope of carbon) that is remaining in something to determine its age. Because carbon-14 is radio active it goes through a decaying process that changes it into another substance. scientists use the measured rate of carbon decay to determine how old something is by measuring the amount of carbon-14 that has yet to go through decay. A common illustration is an hourglass: the sand pours through to the bottom at a certain rate (1 hour from start to finish). From scientists calculations carbon 14 decays at a certain rate as well. Carbon-14 can only be used to date things that were once alive.
I take no objection to what you have written above. It is a good synopsis of the general process.
To add some very important specifics, however, one needs to understand that C14 dating is only useful for samples from about 50,000 years ago up to few hundred years ago. It cannot blindly date something from 50 years ago, for instance. It can also only be used for atmospheric C14.
The first problem with carbon dating is the starting state. We were not present to measure the amount of carbon-14 present when the organism died and it is therefore impossible to determine what the starting state was, it must be assumed. Assumption is vulnerable to bias.
Though technically correct, the above is inaccurate and misleading. No. We weren’t taking atmospheric C14 measurements thousands of years ago. But it is not “impossible” to know the starting amount because we have a plethora of organic matter for known dates.
This is the fallacy the YEC "scientists" in general. They only talk ever talk about raw carbon dates, or the first step in the process. The reality is that raw readings are only used to get a “ballpark” figure. That figure is then subjected to calibration.
The reason raw carbon dates are used (raw dates uses a constant atmospheric C14 number) is twofold. 1) It allows scientists to compare the numbers to older published research. (Thought of another way, it allows future scientists who may have more accurate technology to compare to the present research), and 2) It gets scientists into the correct range so they can focus their tests.
Calibration: Organic samples from known dates are used to measure the starting amount of C14 at those dates. These calibration points are graphed, and allow scientists to more accurately determine the date of the sample in question.
We get that information from tree rings (which give a yearly history of C14 for each year), datable burials, datable food, as well as other sources (coral, cave formations etc.).
Most recently, core samples from lakes with known sediment holding leaves has been used to expand the calibration curve (the year of the sediment is known, and the leaves that fell in the lake at that time tell us the C14 for that year).
Sure, it is an ongoing process, but as more and more base samples provide calibration points, and as the measuring technology gets more and more accurate in being able to read the amount of remaining C14, the dates simply get more and more precise.
In any event, the claim that it is impossible to determine the amount of C14 at time of death is simply incorrect.
To illustrate this flaw we can use an example of a horse race. I do not look at what time the race starts but I know Lightning finished at 4:23 and 45 seconds exactly so I give you this information and ask you how long he took, but you have no knowledge of the race other than what I just told you,how do you answer my question? You cannot because you do not have enough information, the same goes for carbon dating.
It is clever. You are correct that I can’t tell you when the race started… but it doesn't matter. These word tricks are commonly used by the YEC brass. I have seen a similar trick using a burning candle.
But it can be done for anything: If I tell you that I live north of a river, but give you no other information, it is highly improbable that you will be able to find my house; therefore maps are useless.
Again, your example (and subsequently mine) removes everything important, and does not reflect reality.
No. The same does not go for carbon dating, because of what I said earlier: we have a calibration curve that gives us the starting C14 for several times points. The lake sediment core sample mentioned above, for instance, added over 800 data points.
That YECs ignore this reality does not make it less real. They willfully ignore it because they can’t answer to it.
Another issue with carbon dating is that the carbon-14 in the organism can be contaminated by carbon from outside which also changes the date that would be read.
Yup. This is the problem with many YECs claims... They vehemently condemn carbon dating when it goes against them, and laud its greatness when it appears to support their claims, like contaminated bones, diamonds, and living animals.
C14 dating can only be used for formerly living things that got their C14 directly or indirectly through atmospheric C14, and lived before the massive increase in burning fossil fuels.
This is why scientists don’t use the method to date certain shellfish, for instance, because it is known that they got their C14 from other sources. This is why carbon dating can’t be used on recent objects or animals, because the atmospheric C14 has been tampered with by the burning of fossil fuels, and the detonation of nuclear bombs.
Still, YECs love to point out that a living penguin was dated at 3000 BP and use that against carbon dating. In the same breath they will tell you that diamonds have C14 and are therefore very young, failing to calibrate for nearby deposits of uranium.
What we can certainly say (and here I would tend to agree with you) is that the test is only as good as the sample. There may be latent bacteria on the sample, or the sample may have been contaminated be someone licking it or something, but this is why labs are designed to filter out as much garbage as possible. It is also why several tests may be done on the same sample, or other similar samples.
It is also assumed that the present conditions on the earth that cause carbon-14 to decay at current rate were the same throughout its span of decay, which could very easily not be the case, we don't have enough information because we were not there to measure it.
Again, you are basing this statement on incorrect information. We can check the rate because we have an entire database of samples with known dates.
If we have 1000s of samples for the past 50,000 years that are all showing decay rates at the same 5700(ish) half life, then it isn't an assumption. It is documented proof.
If you wish to learn about calibration, look it up. It throws nearly all of the YEC arguments in the bin.
You can start here: http://www.ox.ac.uk/media/news_stories/2012/121019.html
This is about the recent lake sediment research.
Thanks for taking the time to read this post. I hope I have been able to give you some helpful information, and I hope you have a good day.