Carbon dating

I was talking to a young earth creationist earlier who was attempting to refute carbon dating. I’d just said that carbon 14 dating is only used to date fossils younger than 50,000 years. Anything beyond that may be dated using other methods such as Potassium-Argon, Rubidium-Strontium, Uranium-Lead dating methods. He said:

“This has been a personal, specialty topic I have studied for years on. And I’m not merely talking about reading the “known publications either”. I’m doing actual research and calculations on these topics (just not able to do it consistently or get access to the real equipment I need). You have a major flaw in that argument too. Affirming the consequent. How do you know something is that old? That’s one thing few people realize about these dating methods. They don’t work…unless you already know the answer they are supposed to give.

I know full they wouldn’t think about using it. But what happens when it does…and it does…ALL THE TIME? Would you trust a calculator that gives numeric answers for dividing by zero? Would you trust a calculator that never was tested nor programmed to correctly handle division by zero (throwing an error flag)? Then why trust those methods that NEVER WENT THROUGH RIGOROUS SCIENTIFIC TESTING? How can I claim that? Because the errors they keep finding have always been AFTER the fact, not prior to any publication.

When your weigh scale measures a feather to be that of a 500-lb brick…you know the weigh scale is wrong. The same is true about ALL of these dating methods. They always get known facts wrong.”

Do I even bother responding?

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Depends on how much free time you have. :wink:

The YEC is arguing against physics. I suggest that instead of trying to educate them about dating techniques, point out the implications if the physics behind dating techniques is wrong. For instance, nuclear reactors wouldn’t work (or nuclear bombs), medical tests and treatments using radioactive tracers would fail. If they argue that physical constants (Fine Structure Constant) governing radioactive decay may not be constant, they fail because we have LOTS of evidence that physical constant have not changed in the observable history of the universe.

At this point the YEC often start making a variety of arguments that God may have made thing appear as we see them, which is the Omphalos Argument (a deceptive God), and they have defeated themselves.

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If it was me, I’d ask him to show me how the ages are calculated from the raw data, fully expecting him not to be able to.

I might also hint at Siberian mammoth dating just to see if he refers to Dima. That’s always a fun rebuttal.

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Tell the person that the weight scale is not necessarily wrong—just the wrong device for the particular task. I’ve dealt with industrial scales which report the very same weight (zero) for both a feather and a 500lbs brick. That is because such scales are meant for extremely heavy objects and it takes at least a ton of weight to budge the scale from zero. It is common sense that one must FIRST select the appropriate measuring tool. Some measuring tasks require a little postal scale and some require a “truck scale” and some tasks require a behemoth scale. Fortunately, it is NOT a matter of bias or guesswork. With both weight and age measurement, there are other data which we can use in order to select the appropriate measuring device/technique.

These tired old YEC arguments against standard scientific dating methods are lame beyond measure. (Pun intended.)

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Here is a quote from @paulbraterman that I keep handy for use:

For what it’s worth, radioactive decay constants are not free variables. They depend on things like time-dependent quantum mechanics, and the fundamental constants of nature such as Planck’s constant, the speed of light, and the charge on the electron. If any of these things had changed, so would the laws of chemistry, and we wouldn’t have rock formations laid down with recognizable structures. All this has been known since around 1928.

Larger changes in those constants and chemistry as we know it doesn’t work, or atoms don’t form at all. Argument against the laws of physics will not go well for them.

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Happy to help!

Paul S. Braterman,
Professor Emeritus, University of North Texas
Honorary Senior Research Fellow in Chemistry, University of Glasgow

14 Willoughby Place, Callander FK17 8DH, Scotland, UK

https://paulbraterman.wordpress.com/

Dan_Eastwood Agnostic Moderator
February 8

Here is a quote from @paulbraterman that I keep handy for use:

For what it’s worth, radioactive decay constants are not free variables. They depend on things like time-dependent quantum mechanics, and the fundamental constants of nature such as Planck’s constant, the speed of light, and the charge on the electron. If any of these things had changed, so would the laws of chemistry, and we wouldn’t have rock formations laid down with recognizable structures. All this has been known since around 1928.

Larger changes in those constants and chemistry as we know it doesn’t work, or atoms don’t form at all. Argument against the laws of physics will not go well for them.

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Carbon dating can be correlated with non-radiometric dating methods, such as dendrochronology, lake varves, and speleothems. Carbon dating can also be correlated with other decay series, such as U/Th. In fact, carbon dating is calibrated to non-radiometric dates as part of the IntCal project:

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No, but it pays off financially for groups like Answers in Genesis and their Ark Encounter affiliate. Very very well.

Oh, well…

(Thanks for excellently summarizing a few of the problems with claims that radioactive decay constants are free variables.)

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Much the same can be said of claims that the speed of light was different in the past, or is different in each direction, both of which Young Earth creationists sometimes claim. The speed of light is built into the properties of space (Maxwell, 1865) or, more exactly, space-time (Einstein 1907 - 1915)

Paul S. Braterman,
Professor Emeritus, University of North Texas
Honorary Senior Research Fellow in Chemistry, University of Glasgow

14 Willoughby Place, Callander FK17 8DH, Scotland, UK

https://paulbraterman.wordpress.com/

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Never placing a too high value on consistency, YEC likes 14C dating when it suits their purposes.

CMI recently posted an article by Gavin Cox, titled Breakthrough in Paleomagnetic Measurement and Joel Duff discussed it in one of his This Week in Creationism podcasts. The discussion comes out of a paper The Earth’s magnetic field in Jerusalem during the Babylonian destruction: A unique reference for field behavior and an anchor for archaeomagnetic dating.

For a Gavin Cox article concerning a dating technique, it is rather odd in that there is almost nothing misrepresented, my only quibble is one of degree in regards to the statement, “The possibility that carbon-14 can be accurately calibrated is big news for archaeology, and particularly for biblical archaeology.” For most purposes, Carbon-14 is already accurately calibrated, generally by dendrochronology as a primary standard for the first twelve thousand years of the calibration curve, with other inputs taken into account.

The calibration curve has been systematically refined in a series of international efforts, with major updates released in 1998, 2004, 2009, 2013, 2018, and latest of all Intcal20. Each of these has extended the range and precision of the standard curve. Unsurprisingly, variation in solar activity and the magnetic field does produce some deviation from perfectly smooth, and the time period of the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC falls on a patch where the curve plateaus for a bit. It is often underappreciated that the carbon dating calibration curve is empirical and while it accords with the 14C half life, it is not based on it because equilibrium atmospheric production of 14C fluctuates. The Intcal projects, which updates every four years or roundabouts, produce the curve by surveying the tremendous number of 14C measurements which have been taken on samples of known age, and cross correlated with the results of other techniques, including archaeomagnetic dating.

What I can glean, and this is mostly new to me, is that when certain archeological objects are subjected to the heat of manufacture or fire, the cooling material locks in the magnetic field from that time, allowing the direction, intensity, and inclination to be measured. As the catalog is built up of earth’s magnetic field waxing, waning, and wriggling about, and the field also affects 14C production, archaeomagnetic dating is a nice complement to radiocarbon dating. Thus, archaeomagnetic dating can be added to the range of terrestrial cross correlations which include dendrochronology, conventionally dated archeology, varves, ice cores, synchronizations such volcanism and energetic solar particle events, stable isotope analysis, and speleothems. As this broadly based record extends with reasonably fine precision, unperturbed into the past 25,000 years or so, one wonders in view of his other writings how Gavin Cox can be enthused of this study.

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