Friday, May 06, 2011
A comprehensive statistical analysis of radiocarbon dates for 93 totally different ancient samples gives surprising results. Instead of a variety of ages stretching all the way back to the limits of statistical error, the dates fit a bell curve that center on single point in time. This signature points to the Global Flood of Noah!
Selections from A Case of "Missing" Decay, An Analysis of C-14 Detected in Very Old Samples, by Rick Sanders.
(These selections by Marko Malyj are of the article published in Creation Research Society Quarterly Journal, Volume 47, Number 3, Winter 2011, to appear at http://www.creationresearch.org/crsq/abstracts/Abstracts47-3.htm).
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Radiocarbon (C-14) dating over the past thirty-some years has grown rapidly due to ultra-sensitive detection equipment known as accelerator mass spectrometry, or AMS. This instrument is capable of detecting minute amounts of radioactive elements present within samples. Many geologically ancient samples have been tested and appear to contain trace amounts of radiocarbon. C-14 has a half-life of only 5730 years, which means any carbon sample older than around 100,000 years before the present (YBP) should contain zero radiocarbon.
Creation scientists argue that the C-14 detected within these ancient samples is in fact intrinsic and provides evidence for a young earth. Criticisms of creation scientists argue that small amounts of background contamination occur in radiocarbon measurements.
Analysis of the Data
There has been to my knowledge no rigorous and systematic study of radiocarbon content in ancient samples done by the scientific community.
I have compiled a listing of radiocarbon measurements made on geologically ancient samples taken from results published in the literature. There were two sources for the radiocarbon data I used in producing this paper: two tables shown in Baumgardner (2005), including his summary of previously published results (pp. 596–597) and the RATE project results on coal (p. 605). The other source was a study by Snelling (2008).
I excluded from my study graphite and all diamond samples. Types of object that were included were coal, wood, shell, foraminifera, bone, fossils, and others. The available data from these 93 ancient samples that underwent AMS radiocarbon dating is shown in the age graph of Figure 3.
Figure 3. Histogram showing the “apparent” radiocarbon ages of the tested samples with a normal curve fitted to the data. The line shows how the apparent ages of the tested samples appear to conform to the normal distribution, the well known “bell curve.”
The average apparent age of the samples is 51,155 YBP (Years Before Present). This is not the “actual age” of each sample, it is the “radiocarbon age”. It is important to distinguish between the two.
Carbon 14 originates in the upper atmosphere as cosmic rays bombard nitrogen molecules and convert them to radioactive C-14, which can then be taken in by plants, absorbed into ocean water, or retained in the atmosphere. If any factor in C-14 production is changed, its level in the atmosphere also will change. For example, if the sun has a period of unusually high activity, it can shield the earth from the cosmic rays, thus lowering the amount of C-14 creation.
Thus there are a number of ways to fit this age within a young-earth paradigm. The simplest is to infer that the C-14/C-12 ratio was much lower in the past relative to today’s value. Plants and animals that were buried and preserved in the Flood sediments would therefore, when they died, begin with much lower C-14/C-12 ratios than is the case today. Reasons for lower C-14/C-12 ratio before the Flood could include a larger biomass exchanging with the atmosphere or a lower rate of C-14 production, perhaps due to a stronger magnetic field.
The Age Graph is a Bell Curve, which Points to a Single Historical Event (the Flood?)
What is of greatest significance is that the ages of the samples tested can be approximated by the normal distribution, the well known “bell curve”. This implies that all of the samples date to the same geological time. This suggests a single event when all of the given samples were isolated from the carbon cycle. Remember, the 93 samples represent many different sample types, dating to many different geologic time periods and analyzed in different laboratories — but all date to a single event. This is consistent with the young-earth creationist expectation that all of these samples date to the time of the Flood.
A word of caution. As noted above, no systematic analysis of radiocarbon in ancient geologic samples has been done to date, of which I am aware. My conclusion is reasonable but not exhaustive. This being said, the radiocarbon dating is still on the side of the creationist, and should be regarded a friend rather than a foe in the study of young-earth geology.
Summary and Conclusion
To clarify, this study does not rule out any trace of contamination in the samples tested. I suggest that an intensive research initiative could address the problem of contamination and intrinsic radiocarbon by testing across different sample types and ages, pre-test treatment regimens, and laboratories and then carefully analyzing the results. Unfortunately, this expensive solution will probably be necessary for the true nature of radiocarbon content and contamination in very old samples to be resolved in a satisfactory way for most people.
Radiocarbon dating is just one more demonstration that true science will always align with a proper understanding of God’s Word. Scientific study results and statistical reports always have a capacity for error, while the Bible is not subject to error when its message is understood correctly.
Baumgardner, J. 2005. C-14 Evidence for a recent global flood and a young earth. In Vardiman, L., A. Snelling, and E. Chaffin (editors), Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth, Vol. 2, pp. 587–630. Institute
for Creation Research, El Cajon, CA and Creation Research Society, Chino
Snelling, A. 2008. Radiocarbon ages for fossil ammonites and wood in cretaceous strata near Redding, California. Answers Research Journal 1(1):128–144. http://www.answersingenesis.org/contents/379/Radiocarbon_Ammonites_Wood.pdf (as of June 4, 2010).