RATE II: Radioisotopes and the Age of The Earth: Results of a Young-Earth Creationist Research Initiative, (Volume II), L. Vardiman et al., eds. (San Diego, CA: Institute for Creation Research and the Creation Research Society, 2005)
A remarkable discovery made over the past twenty-five years is that organic samples from every level in the Phanerozoic portion of the geological record, when tested by highly sensitive accelerator mass spectrometer (AMS) methods, display significant and reproducible amounts of 14C. Because the lifetime of 14C is so brief, these AMS measurements pose an obvious challenge to the standard geological timescale that assigns millions to hundreds of million of years to this part of the rock record. With a half-life of 5730 years, 14C decays to levels undetectable by any currently available technique after only 100,000 years (17.5 half-lives). After one million years (175 half-lives), the amount of 14C remaining is only 3 × 10-53 of the initial 14C concentration—so vanishingly small as to exclude even a single 14C atom in a beginning mass of 14C equal to the mass of the earth itself. However, in samples with uniformitarian ages between one and 500 million years, the peer-reviewed radiocarbon literature documents scores of examples of 14C/C ratios in the range 0.1–0.5 percent of the modern 14C/C ratio. The lower limit of this range is a factor of ten above the detection threshold of most AMS laboratories in the world. Another noteworthy observation is that the 14C/C ratio of these samples appears to be uncorrelated with their position in the geological record. RATE’s own measurement of 14C levels in ten coal samples using one of the world’s best AMS laboratories strongly confirms both this reported range in 14C/C ratio and the lack of dependence of this ratio on position in the rock record. In terms of 14C age, if one makes the assumption, as is normally done, that the 14C/C ratio in these fossilized organisms when they died was close to that of today’s atmosphere, the range in 14C/C ratio of 0.1–0.5 percent of the modern value corresponds to 14C ages between 44,000 and 57,000 years. A straightforward but startling inference from these AMS data is that all but the very youngest fossil material in the geological record was buried contemporaneously only thousands of years ago in what must have been a major global cataclysm. The simultaneous destruction of so much life implies, however, that dramatically more total carbon (now in the form of coal, oil, and oil shale) had to be present in the earth’s biosphere prior to this cataclysmic event. In this case using today’s atmospheric 14C/C ratio as the initial 14C/C ratio for this fossil material almost certainly would not be a proper assumption. Using a lower, more realistic estimate for the biospheric 14C/C ratio prior to this cataclysm reduces the actual 14C age by roughly a factor of ten from about 50,000 years to a value of about 5000 years. This latter age estimate, of course, is consistent with the Biblical account of a global Flood that destroyed most of the life on the planet, both plants and animals, in a single brief cataclysm some four to five millennia ago. Finally, our 14C RATE project has measured 14C/C ratios above the AMS threshold in diamonds from a variety of locations. Although more confirmation is needed to justify a strong claim in this regard, these measurements appear to limit the age of the physical earth itself to the range of thousands (as opposed to billions) of years.
Carbon-14, global Flood, young earth, RATE II
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