The phrase that means “God faked the age of the Earth”

| March 29, 2012 | 90 Replies

I’ve run into more than a few fundamentalist Christians who have insisted that the Earth is only 6,000 years old.

“Then please explain the results of radiometric dating,” I typically ask, adding that even carbon dating can accurately date materials up to 60,000 years old, far older than 6,000 years.

Most modern savvy Young-Earthers won’t fight me on the general usefulness or accuracy of carbon dating. Instead, they will insist that A) God has created an Earth that only looks like it is billions of years old, and B) I need to have faith.  That is how they would explain everything older than 6,000 years old, including the Old Tjikko tree in Sweden, which certainly appears to be 9,550 years old.  God must have transplanted it from another universe when he made this universe.

The Young-Earthers thus offer an provocative argument.   I don’t believe it, but there’s would be no way for me to disprove it.  They do not offer any way to falsify their claim (a topic on which I recently posted).  In that way this young Earth argument reminds me of idea that I’m actually a head in a jar and that I’m dreaming all of this stuff that I think I’m experiencing.  On many days, it’s an argument that brings to mind the idea of multiverses.  The proposal can’t be disproved, though one can certainly doubt the premises as far-fetched, as an obvious violation of Occam’s Razor.

The reason I’m bringing up this topic is that I recently discovered that there is a phrase that describes the claim that God created the universe such that it only looks much older than it is. I’m referring to the “Omphalos hypothesis,” and there is a Wikipedia entry on the topic. Here’s the Wikipedia description:

God must have created the Earth with mountains and canyons, trees with growth rings, Adam and Eve with hair, fingernails, and navels (omphalos is Greek for “navel”), and that therefore no evidence that we can see of the presumed age of the earth and universe can be taken as reliable.

Photo adapted by Erich Vieth

In the past, I might have gotten frustrated with jury-rigged explanations like the Omphalos hypothesis. Nowadays, I take a different approach.  I assert that my God told me that the universe is actually billions of years old. As I understand algebra, the opposing Gods then cancel each other out, and then we can get back to discussing carbon dating or counting rings on extraordinarily old trees (here’s a whole bunch of them).   Methuselah, the oldest living non-clonal tree was apparently not washed away in the Great Flood (according to this Christian site, the Great Flood “began approximately 4,359 years ago in the year 1656 AM or 2348 BC.”  If you insist on learning the methodology for these numbers, Answers in Genesis would be happy to sell it to you).   Perhaps Noah anchored the ark to it, assuming that it was tall enough to stick out of the water.

So little time.  So many questions.

Note: If you’d like to know more about the debate of whether Adam and Eve had belly buttons, a Christian church was once formed as a result of that debate.

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Category: Anti-science, Religion, Science

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (90)

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  1. Chip Camden says:

    While there’s no way to prove that all of our observable experience isn’t an illusion (in fact, I often argue that it must be, because of our limited abilities) — it is nevertheless an illusion that we cannot escape. Therefore, the only practical response is to treat it as reality. An illusion is only a threat when it masks some reality that will break through in a “gotcha” moment. Perhaps the faithful would counter that hell is that “gotcha,” but I think the scientific method has a much better record of finding the gotchas so far.

  2. grumpypilgrim says:

    I recently learned, to my great surprise, that my Christian Fundie sister, who has long been a Creationist, is also a Young Earth Creationist (YEC). What I didn’t know, until I read the (ridiculous) brochure she sent me about YEC beliefs, is that the main motive behind YEC assertions is to sidestep the whole topic of evolution. Since evolution is based on the fact that our planet is billions of years old, they assert that our planet is only 6,000-10,000 years old and that, therefore, there wasn’t enough time for evolution to happen…thus, *they don’t need to answer any questions about evolution*.

    When asked why our planet, and the rest of the Universe, looks so much older, they simply assert that since God created Adam as a full adult, God must also have created the Universe to look billions of years old. Again, a handy way to avoid scientific facts: God did it.

    What they fail to answer is this question: why would their god, whom their holy book declares to be without guile or dishonesty, fake the age of our Universe? The Bible says all deception comes from Satan, yet YEC theology rests on the assertion that the greatest deception imaginable — the appearance of our entire Universe — is the creation of their god. So, the logical conclusion of the YEC argument is that the god they worship is Satan. Go figure.

    I’ll end this comment with one other thing that troubles me about their flagrantly dishonest, self-contradictory assertions. If today’s Christians are willing to fabricate such whopper lies to bolster their religious claims, then why should anyone believe the claims that early Christians made about Jesus (claims for which the incentives to lie would have been much, much greater, and the evidence to refute the claims much, much less)?

  3. Edgar Montrose says:

    By any measure whatsoever, what is the difference between an Earth that was created 4,500,000,000 years ago, an Earth that was created 6000 years ago with 4,499,994,000 years’ history, and an Earth that was created when you woke up this morning with 4,500,000,000 years’ history?

    No difference.

    So why does anybody care?

    • Niklaus Pfirsig says:

      Edgar,
      That is truly an existentialist agnostic nonbeliever point of view.

      When asked “Which came fist, the chicken or the egg?”, the creationist answers, “The chicken. God created it and it laid the first egg”.
      The evolutionist answers that the first true chicken hatched from an egg laid by a proto chicken.
      The existentialist agnostic nonbeliever says, “Why are we even asking this stupid question?”

    • Edgar Montrose says:

      “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?”

      An existentialist agnostic nonbeliever replies, “I’m hungry.”

  4. grumpypilgrim says:

    Edgar makes an amusing point. Who’s to say the Universe wasn’t spontaneously created an hour ago, with all of us in it, and we were all simply implanted with memories of our “past?” Or, perhaps our “memories” are spontaneously created as we “remember” them.

    The plot thickens.

    • Erich Vieth says:

      Grumpy: I already told you that I might be a head in a jar and that that is ALL there is. Maybe you don’t exist. Therefore, I don’t even know why I’m responding to your comment.

  5. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    Somehow I am reminded of a scene from the movie “Darkstar”.

  6. grumpypilgrim says:

    Erich, cogito ergo sum?

    • Erich Vieth says:

      Grumpy: Descartes didn’t go far enough. He should he said “Something/someone seems to be thinking, but “I” don’t really know what to make of it.”

  7. Jim Razinha says:

    Descartes should have stuck to math. Waste of intellect worrying whether he existed or not. I set that exercise aside as nonsense after my only philosophy course 30+ years ago – I determined there was no way I could ever come up with all the strange people in the world on my own (I’ve never taken any psychedelics), let alone my mind, so I might as well accept what I know and see.

    Thus … cogito

    …the rest need never have been in doubt.

  8. Karl says:

    1. As for Old Tjikko

    What you STATE is what is BELIEVED about Old Tjikko.

    This ancient, 16-foot tall Norway spruce lives in the scrubby Fulufjället Mountains in Sweden. At 9,550 years, Old Tjikko is “STATED TO BE” the oldest single-stemmed clonal tree, and it is stated that it took root not long after the glaciers receded from Scandinavia after the last ice age.

    To calculate the hardy spruce’s age, scientists carbon-dated its roots.
    In case you are interested – trees grown in recent decades have often been carbon dated and found to be older then trees from the previous century! The methodology is not fool proof. The amount of carbon-14 in the atmosphere and the hydrosphere has not been predictable at all.

    This is one tree that they claim gives rock solid evidence of its age, even though they will say that they routinely dismiss numerous cases of contaminated samples because they don\’t return ages to their liking. How ironic, one sample returns a date they like and they jump all over it. But on the other hand, carbon-14 found inside dinosaur bones that isn\’t suppose to be there must all be due to contamination from the environement.

    This much does appear to be true – For thousands of years, the forbidding tundra-climate kept Old Tjikko in shrub form. But as weather warmed over the last century, the shrub has grown into a full-fledged tree. The spruce’s discoverer, geologist Leif Kullman, named the tree after his dead dog.

    The bristle cone pines take us back into the 5,000 to 6,000 year range. I have no problem with that scientifically, historically.

    • Erich Vieth says:

      Karl: You might not like what scientists believe about the tree, but at least they are relying on evidence. Here’s more: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Old-Tjikko/143738865637306

    • Chip Camden says:

      Variations in atmospheric carbon-14 are accounted for by calibration against ages of materials known from other sources. If you’re going to claim innacuracy in that system, you should bring hard evidence.

    • Dan Klarmann says:

      Karl, we’ve been over this many times on this blog. As I do respect your intelligence, the only conclusion is that you don’t want to understand the well-verified answers we repeatedly provide for you.

      Yet again: Carbon dating is only useful from about 200 years ago (plants and plant-eaters that respired before fossil fuels were burned) to about 50,000 years ago (the outer limit). Overlapping with and beyond that range, other methods are used.

  9. Karl says:

    The main reason for all my skepticism concerning the use of radioactive dating of anything beyond a none historical context comes from one simple modern day anomoly that is documented. We are dealing with trace concentrations of C-14 as compared to much larger concentrations of C-12 and C-13. We are also assuming the only method for the production of C-14 is from cosmic radition.

    Atmospheric nuclear weapon tests (or some other factors) between 1960 and 1990 apparently resulted in a doubling and then a returning to more normal lower levels in the “steady state” concentration of carbon-14 in the Northern Hemisphere.

    If there can be a doubling and also a returning to a more expected level of C-14 over a 30 year time cycle, what reason do we have to assume that there weren’t other spikes or dips in the levels of C-14 throughout history as well?

    What gives us the reason to believe the entire process isn’t cyclical itself?

    Who is to say that there wasn’t a huge release of radiation in general from the insides of the earth historically or who is to say that the only way for the production of C-14 is from cosmic radiation? For that matter who is to say that the cosmic radiation has been steady itself. I would think during an “ice age” something most certainly would be changing regarding the amount of heat and radiation that the planet was receiving.

    The entire process assumes a comparison to an extrapolated steady state reason for the existence of the trusted and expected levels of radioactive materials over an historic time frame. Those assumptions constantly need to be recalibrated, but when we venture to values beyond truly known atmospheric levels the data could be confounding us to say the least.

    • Erich Vieth says:

      Karl: The corrections you allude to are nowhere near the problem you are suggesting. They are bumps in the road. Take a look at real data before you throw out the baby with the bath water. For instance, read “Radiocarbon Dating’s Final Frontier,” in the Sept 15, 2006 edition of Science, complete with detailed charts and graphs, completed by meticulous scientists. Through their efforts, researchers have pushed the accuracy of radiocarbon dating back at least 26,000 years, with reason to believe that they can eventually deem the method accurate to 50,000 years ago. This is not pie in the sky. It was the result of 25 years of research by teams of highly trained researchers.

  10. Karl says:

    Dan,
    Should scientists state that the science and interpretation behind the use of radioactive dating is foolproof, or should they state it is a reasonable methodology based upon the assumed understood operation of the scientific principles?
    What if someone were to find evidence that there was not something wrong with the methodology or the interpretation but rather something potentially wrong with one or more of the assumptions? Would you throw out the supposed evidence as due to contamination or some other unknown in the process, or would you cling to the belief that the assumptions are not capable of yielding erroneous data or interpretations?

    • Dan Klarmann says:

      As I’ve pointed out to you many times, in science any evidence that does not match the current model is an opportunity to improve on the model. Proving this is how to get ahead in science as individuals. And this is how science as a practice gets ahead as a field of understanding.
      They do not simply ignore (or arbitrarily declare as corrupt) inconsistent evidence. The problem of contamination is real and frequent and well understood. The first thing to check for when evidence conflicts with a long-supported theory is to check for why the evidence is wrong, not to challenge the theory. Only when no source of error can be found can work seriously begin on challenging a theory.

      Carbon-14 was not created “in the beginning.” It is continually being created by a variety of nuclear interactions. It primarily enters the biosphere via high altitude collisions of solar beta particles and cosmic rays with nitrogen-14. This happens at a very regular rate. But it is also created by other nuclear interactions at lesser rates in everything. For example, your body contains uranium and all its daughter products, as did the body of your great-great-grandfish.
      Because the normal initial proportion of C-14 to C-12 in living cells is on the order of 1:1,000,000,000,000 (and it drops by half every 5730 years) it doesn’t take much native radiation to keep the C-14 level up to the 50,000 year detection level.

  11. Karl says:

    As for the term meticulous scientists, they are still doing their meticulous research based upon assumptions and can only correct for the bumps in the road when they don’t discard data that doesn’t fit the model.

    For organic samples, when we venture beyond actual somewhat verifiable cross matched tree rings the curves in the road, the bumps in the road, the forks in the road, and even the existence of a beginning or non-beginning of the road can not be determined when only the data that fits the model is acceptable.

    If all one can say as to why some data doesn’t fit the model is to call it contaminated please explain how the calibration blank can ever be assumed to contain absolutely no statistically significant amount of C-14.

    How can millions of year old dinosaur bones and even billions of year old diamonds still contain C-14 in levels that are unexplainable by the assumptions of the “smooth road” hypothesis?

    Many examples of samples supposed to be blanks for “calibration” purposes have since been shown by accelerated mass spectroscopy to not actually be blanks at all. The calibration blanks were used to try to eliminate background radiation and were assumed to have other decays going on that were not directly related to C-14 in the samples or in the environment.

    In fact all kinds of materials from organic to inorganic have been found to contain C-14 atoms that have not followed the model for the assumed constancy of the half life for carbon-14.

    Work to correct errors can only be done when one assumes that actual data can’t be discarded because it doesn’t agree with a model. As much of the statistically significant and reasonable data that is placed before a scientist needs to be accounted for before the assumptions can be even remotely relied upon.

    Telling me that data only works when it is selectively filtered is not how science is suppose to function.

    • Erich Vieth says:

      Karl: Let’s just short-cut this. Please A) admit that nothing you could ever see, hear or read could have any possibility of convincing you that the Earth is billions of years old and that human beings have been evolving for at least millions of years, or B) Describe the type of evidence that would convince you of these things.

  12. Karl says:

    Its not what it will take to convince me that scientists have formed solid conclusions, its what their opinion is of the data they have to ignore to make the process assumably true.

    For me its what evidence and data has to be discarded to prop a model or data up on two feet.

    I can accept that there is data that one can interpret either in short term cataclysmic ways or uniformitarian ways that take radically different perspectives about the past.

    Nothing can convince me that what has been happening for all the past years is solely dependent upon processes witnessed today, a “clock” ticking today and the imagination (or lack thereof)in people of today.

    I have to admit that when historical evidence and records from credible sources have to be discarded as incredulous, preposterous or error filled because they describe processes unwitnessed or cataclysms that are so colossal that they can not be well understood, I refrain from swallowing the opinions of experts as truth.

    • Erich Vieth says:

      Karl: I see that you are refusing give a straightforward response. You sound like a waffling politician.

    • Of course, you count among those “credible sources” religious texts the purpose of which had nothing to do with understanding the physical world.

      By your standard, science should not work at all. You indulge not so much in skepticism as in deconstruction. “Well, the sign is not the thing itself, and words do not depict reality. A thing is not its description and conclusions cannot be drawn of an objective nature, therefore, nothing can be known.”

      By your lights, forensics could tell us nothing.

      This is tiresome. You have stated often the problem—there is no evidence you will accept that runs counter to your preferred model. The bias you claim for scientists is in fact your own bias and you assume since you suffer it, everyone does, to the same extent. Conversely, if such biases have the consequence of causing people to present false pictures of what they see (since they cannot be overcome in any meaningful way) and everyone has them, then you, too, are victim to the irresistible impulse to make false claims on behalf of your preferred world view. So what you say has no more value than what they say, and for the same reasons.

      But your bias is clear—if someone comes up with something that contradicts what you think is reality, it must automatically be wrong, the product of a bias (secular bias?) that blinds the scientist to all the important things in your list.

      Here’s a thought, Karl: you disbelieve the Earth is 4.5 billion years old. Okay. Then tell us why it can only be—what? 100 million? 10 million? Pick a number. Tell us—not based on what was written in a book by people who knew no geology, but based on physical evidence we can look at in a lab—why the Earth can ONLY be as old as you say it is.

      Or don’t.

  13. Tim Hogan says:

    Dan and Erich, y’all ‘r’ rasslin’ a pig, heyah! Y’all gettin’ dirty and the pig likes it!

  14. NIklause Pfirsig says:

    Karl,

    The consideration of out of band data in relation to a scientific model, is that a certain and small percentage of variance from the model can be, and often is attributed the accuracy of the measurement method. The data may be ignored within the model and noted as a percentage variance, the data is not discarded. study of the non compliant data can be used to refine the model when more accurate measurement techniques are developed. The true test of any scientific model is if it can predict results when applied to a similar set of data.

    The limitations of carbon 14 dating have been established through comparison to alternative measurement techniques over many decades.

    Now consider, if you will, Sir Isaac Newton.

    Through careful observation and measurement, Newton developed his laws of gravity and discerned the mathematical relationships between distance, velocity, and acceleration.

    For years Newton’s law stood as an accurate mathematical model. Astronomers found they could predict the orbits and characteristics of planets through careful observation of the orbits of known planets and the application of Newton’s laws of gravity and motion. Everything was hunky-dory, until it wasn’t.

    Isaac Asimov, in an article titled “The Planet That Wasn’t”, detailed the search for the planet Vulcan. Based on variations in the orbit of the planet Mercury, Newtonian physics predicted the existence of a planet even closer to the sun, but no planet could be found. However, general relativity becomes a significant factor that close to the sun, and when combined with the Newtonian calculations, does account for the orbital variance.

  15. Karl says:

    I would think stating what evidence I will not dismiss answers the questions you asked of me, it’s just not the way you wanted them answered.

    When some says they have overwhelming scientific support for their conclusions I typically respond in one way, is there any recent historical evidence that requires a refinement of the current us of the model? If so, there isn’t anything that will convince me that it’s only the recent historical evidence that can throw some curves into the data. There could be numerous other historical glitches that can not simply be hand waved into non-existence because the “experts” believe this to be the case.

    Why is it that a pair of “planted” gloves at a crime scene probably got O.J. out of a murder conviction but recorded historical writings concerning a tremendous earth changing cataclysm can’t be taken seriously?

    Why is it that claimed credible foot prints of humans in the same strata as dinosaur prints are considered such a threat that people will purposely destroy the evidence rather then consider the full implications of how this juxtaposition came to exist?

    There is no difference, in my mind anyway, between discarding many results while selectively choosing other results of ongoing scientific research.

    When a theory drives how one interprets that appear to some to be real exceptions that do not support the theory, the tail is waging the dog and trying to convince the dog to not chase its own tail in the process.

    • Karl writes: “Why is it that claimed credible foot prints of humans in the same strata as dinosaur prints are considered such a threat that people will purposely destroy the evidence rather then consider the full implications of how this juxtaposition came to exist?”

      Are you talking about those prints found in Texas? That famous double track that crosses? Please. That’s been demonstrated as a fraud for decades now. The ID people love to use that, but the problem is, the one set of tracks only look human from one angle. As soon as the angle shifts any appreciable distance, they are obviously another dinosaur. So that threatens no one—it gets dismissed because it is not what it is claimed to be by those who seem so threatened by the truth.

      That’s disappointing, Karl. I thought you were at least willing to look at the counter claims and not just hue to the party line. But this just strengthens the opinion that you’ve already made up your mind and that trying to debate with you is just intellectual masturbation.

    • P.S. That’s the Paluxy fossil site. And it’s not technically a fraud, because the prints are real, just not what Creationists claimed they were, so the fraud was in the interpretation. BTW, not even the Discovery Institute uses that anymore as evidence for the coexistence of humans and dinosaurs.

    • Chip Camden says:

      Mark, I respectfully object to your calling arguing with Karl “intellectual masturbation.” Masturbation is fun.

    • Erich Vieth says:

      But Chip, maybe Mark is having fun, even though it is not fun for the rest of us to watch. Thus, maybe his metaphor is apt.

    • Chip Camden says:

      Oh..well, carry on then (averts eyes).

  16. Karl says:

    In case you didn’t catch my reference to the dog chasing his tail – that was my way of stating the tail has waged the dog way too often in science and then those who like the whole idea have created interwoven circular reasoning networks that can be used to state that since we have interpreted all of these matters into agreement anything that doesn’t match up must be in error.

    I have said this over and over again. I have no reason to doubt any supposed scientific data that is based upon observations that are both measurable and repeatable.

    I have little inclination to trust theories and models that assume that the present is the key to unlocking the past. This is because when we venture into such endeavors, the further removed we are from the events the more likely we are to have unclear ideas about what really happened in the past or what stresses upon the presumed steady state conditions could have significantly altered the presumed constancy of the “clock” calculations.

    There have been cataclysmic changes to the earth in the past much worse than mankind burning fossil fuels and detonating atmospheric nuclear tests that could have elevated or depressed C-14 levels in living things.

    If huge reservoirs of either low or high percentage C-14 carbon dioxide were released from within the earth it would distort the expected ratio constancy in the atmosphere and thus provide erroneous results.

  17. grumpypilgrim says:

    Karl wrote, “I have to admit that when historical evidence and records from credible sources have to be discarded as incredulous, preposterous or error filled because they describe processes unwitnessed or cataclysms that are so colossal that they can not be well understood, I refrain from swallowing the opinions of experts as truth.”

    Much of science deals with phenomena that is “unwitnessed.” No one has a scale large enough to weigh the Moon, yet its mass can be accurately found. In the early days of x-ray crystallography, no one could directly “witness” the structure of atoms, yet reasoning enabled accurate models to be made of such structure. There is no ruler long enough to measure the diameter of our planet, yet its size was computed long before anyone could “witness” it from space. We could go on and on.

    Meanwhile, the Bible claims that people “witnessed” all sorts of unlikely things, and folks like Karl swallow the Kool-Aid without any evidence whatsoever and without even knowing anything about the reliability of the supposed eyewitnesses.

  18. Karl says:

    Mark
    C-14 models used for radioisotopic dating assumes a statistically steady state ratio of c-14 to c-12 and c-13 in the biosphere, except when there is irrefutably clear data that shows the ratio was indeed not steady state.
    The vast majority of isotopic forms of carbon gets incorporated into liviing cell structures mainly through photosynthesis. Thus the main refinements to the model deal with studying how the ratio of c-14 to c-12 and c-13 has actually varied in both recorded and measured history.
    Yes, unknown sources or sinks of variable ratio carbon dioxide need to be identified before refinements are put into the steady state assumptions.
    Data that could reveal other sources of variance in the assumed steady state hypothesis just gets categorized as irrelevant because it doesn’t agree with the assumptions.

  19. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    Actually, Karl,
    Modern radio carbon dating techniques do not assume a statistically steady ratio of 14C over the years. Instead, based on years of data , and through comparison of 14C levels in samples where the age can be determined independently, such as counting annular rings, scientists have developed calibration charts to identify and compensate for variations in atmospheric levels of carbon 14.
    In effect, the variations form a pattern that is used to increase the accuracy of the dating method by acting as a signature.

  20. Karl says:

    Niklaus,

    The entire model that half lives can be used as a clock into the past focuses upon current day measurements that are assumed to be part of a relentlessly reducing fractional ratio that only decreases in step with invariant conditions upon the samples compared to a steady state appraisal assumed in the environment as well.

    There are no other factors built into the model bedsides the assumption that the environmental flux can only be accounted for when the ratio in the environment has been measured in the environment itself!\

    The original technique assumed the detection of C-14 in samples by eliminating background radiation by comparisons to samples assumed to not contain C-14. This was how the original calibration was done, actual c-14 atoms were not being counted, only the bulk of the radiation coming from a sample was presumed to be coming from c-14 decay.

    The improvment to the use of Accelerated Mass Spectrometry improved the technique of actually determining the c-14 ratio to c-12 and c-13. and its use theoretically enables so much more precision that the problem of alledged contamination is used to discard the bulk of data being observed.

    Only when actual counted tree ring data is used can the blips in the the c-14 environmental conditions be approximated for organisms living at the time.

    This is where we start getting wrapped around in cicular logic and reasoning as soon as we start trying to state that contamination doesn’t make the data compatable with the assumptions about the age of things we have previously dated according to the assumed steady state environemntal conditions.

  21. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    Karl,
    Nice to see you are researching things a bit. However, it is well documented that that unstable radioactive isotopes decay in a manner that is mathematically predictable. Carbon 14 decays into Nitrogen 14, releasing beta particles in the process. Initially the rate of decay correlated to a half life of 5568 years, with a practical limit on the dating technique going back to between 50,000 to 60,000 years due to the resolution of the measuring techniques. AMS (Accelerated Mass Spectroscopy ) methods, developed in the 1970s, increased the accuracy to the point that, the half life of 14C was refined to 5730 years.

    We both know that is a moot point. You seem to be suggesting that the release of sequestered carbon 14 through processes both man-made and natural, must somehow invalidate radiometric dating in its entirety.

    Let’s examine this idea.

    Where unstable isotopes are concerned, many seem to forget that radioactive isotopes also have chemical properties identical to the non radioactive isotopes of the same element. The uptake of carbon 14 in a living organism will match the percentage of carbon 14 in the environment. Even if an organism eats other organisms, the percentage of any 14C in the prey is going to match the contemporary environmental concentration.

    Since the major influx of carbon into the aquatic food chain is from atmospheric gases dissolved near the surface, the carbon 14 as a percentage of total carbon will be close to the atmospheric levels.

    So what is the source of this “contamination”? CO2 released from fossil sources will have much lower carbon 14 level than the atmospheric CO2, but the increase in the concentration is offset as the higher concentration of carbon in the air also means more carbon molecules will be converted into carbon 14.

    Other sources of release of sequestered carbon into the atmosphere include acid rain erosion of limestone and volcanic eruptions. These carbon releases are lower in Carbon 14. What increases Carbon 14 is increases in radiation. These increases include above ground nuclear weapons testing, and fluctuations on cosmic radiation. None of these can significantly skew the results of carbon dating.

  22. Karl says:

    Our differences over the use of c-14 for dating old living tissues stem from one assumption you accept and which I do not.

    I have repeatedly said that the problem I have with c-14 is that the assumption of steady state atmospheric ratio levels is a chosen bias in the process that leads to the necessity of discarding all kinds of not well understood contamination in samples that do not fit the model.

    You are content to throw out numerous puzzling levels of c-14 in places where it supposedly has no business existing. I am not comfortable in doing so.

    If we can study real tree rings to see how the atmospheric ratios have changed in modern history, what business do we have saying the process is calibrated properly when we don’t even know for sure what actual ratios existed in the past, only what we assumed should have existed from the manner by which the mathematical model says it should have existed?

    When what we assume is the basis for what we claim to actually know, I wouldn’t be all that confident, especially when more and more data ends up being discarded to keep the model from needing to be overhauled.

    • Erich Vieth says:

      Karl: How do you possibly get through the day? After all, your watch might not be EXACTLY accurate. I believe that the Earth is billions of years old, and you are clinging to a few thousands, many orders of magnitude difference. Even if we are in the realm of well-verified carbon dating, and scientists say that something is 20,000 years old. Are you saying that this thing might actually be 2,000 years old? 7,000? Based on what? Not on minor perturbations.

      Let’s just agree that nothing any scientist could ever say or do would convince you that the earth is more than a billion years old. In other words, your hyper-skepticism in this ONE area is not scientific. If you worried about everything in your life like you are worrying about carbon dating, You’d be panicked every day at work (if you work) that your house doesn’t really exist and that your boss is actually a tuna fish in disguise.

    • Dan Klarmann says:

      Karl, the “assumption” of consistent C-12/14 ratios has been confirmed against counted tree rings going back more than 10,000 years.
      Timeline of dendrochronology timestamp events

      It also has been checked against many other dating techniques, like radiological (potassium, samarium, fission track), biological (amino acid racimization, DNA drift), magnetic (pole orientation), and some methods simply count layers (dendrochronology, stratigraphy).

      The Gulf of Mexico has millions of annual deposition layers, containing alternately spring pollens, summer insects, autumn leaves, and winter silts. Ask any petroleum engineer. And the top few dozen millenial layers of pollen, bugs, and leaves are tested to calibrate against carbon dating.

    • Karl says:

      Dan, if you want to use tree rings themselves as a check upon the carbon isotope ratios the furthest back you can verify is the sweet track. Beyond that the ratios could have changed and there would be no way to verify any of it except for selective screening and filtering of the data.

  23. Karl says:

    I get through the day very nicely thank-you.

    I don’t need a clock that purports to calculate time based upon assumptions that hold to both an assumed historically steady state atmospheric ratio of between carbons isotopes and as well as nonexistent factors that could have altered these ratios.

    There is one thing that could scientifically convince me that the earth is billions of years old. Having observed recorded written documented measurements of all of the fluctuations in atmospheric carbon isotope ratios as well as complete accounting of all of the historical sources and sinks of Carbon-14, this would entail verification of more than one method for the formation and decay of c-14.

  24. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    A major point made time after time on the blog is that belief often is at odds with reality. Some believers seem more than willing to argue that reality is wrong.

    Karl repeatedly proffers the notion that radio carbon dating techniques are worthless.
    He argues that the method assumes a steady level of carbon 14 in the atmosphere. This is not the case.

    He contends that the release of sequestered carbon 14 significantly increases atmospheric carbon 14. It does not.

    He argues that a unknown source of carbon 14 is created terrestrially in concentrations high enough to contaminate the measurements used in carbon dating.

    He insists there must be more than one way for the formation and decay of carbon 14. While carbon 14 can be produced by cosmic rays, mainly alpha particles colliding with nitrogen 14, it can also be produced during above ground nuclear explosions. as for alternate method of radio active decay, no evidence of any method other than spontaneous decay is known.

    What’s next? Perhaps Karl will dare take on numerical methodology, such as the Simpson rule, the trapezoidal method, and the Newton-Raphson method.

  25. Karl says:

    C-14 dating does assume that the initial ratio of carbon isotopes in an organism at the time its cells stop living mirrors the environmental ratio of carbon isotopes for that particlular point in time. The remaining carbon ratio levels at some distant time after the organism had died are then used to date the number of years since the organism died.

    When an exact means of actually determining the real ratio is not known, an assumed expected one is used to determine ages except when the date returned doesn’t match what is expected. This is called selective data manipulation by some but contamination by others.

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