Do Young C-14 Results Reflect Contamination? | The Institute for Creation Research

Do Young C-14 Results Reflect Contamination?

The presence of carbon-14 (C-14) in specimens that are supposedly millions of years old is a serious problem for believers in an old earth. C-14 is a radioactive variety or “isotope” of carbon that eventually decays into nitrogen. Because this occurs relatively quickly, no C-14 should be detected in any specimen that is more than about 100,000 years old.1 The fact that C-14 has long been detected in coal, oil, fossilized wood, and natural gas samples is genuinely surprising to those who believe these samples to be millions of years old. By evolutionary reckoning, such samples should be radiocarbon “dead.”2

Evolutionists were initially able to dismiss these results because of a source of error in the earlier “scintillation” method of detecting C-14. However, a newer technique, acceleration mass spectrometry (AMS), is not subject to this error.

Yet when secular researchers tested supposedly very “ancient” organic specimens with the newer AMS method, C-14 was still present! The number of specimens tested with the AMS method is relatively small, as it is considerably more expensive to process samples than with the earlier technique. Nevertheless, scores of instances of “anomalous” AMS detection of C-14 have been reported in the secular literature, including around 70 within just a 14-year period.3

ICR’s RATE4 creation research project confirmed these earlier results: 10 high-quality coal samples obtained from the U.S. Department of Energy were submitted for testing to one of the world’s most reliable radiocarbon laboratories. C-14 was detected in all 10 samples. The RATE researchers even found preliminary evidence of C-14 in diamond, which is supposedly 1 to 3 billion years old!

Naturally, skeptics have tried to dismissed these findings, generally claiming that they are the result of contamination that occurred either during the laboratory procedures used to measure the C-14 or in situ (in the soil or rock where the specimen was originally found).

However, C-14 lab technicians take great pains to reduce or eliminate sources of contamination. They know very well that any contamination may likely ruin the test results, and their frequent cross-checks virtually ensure that they only measure carbon integral to the sample. Also, any C-14 that could inadvertently be introduced to a sample during the measurement process will be negligible compared to the C-14 already present, provided that sufficiently large sample sizes (about 100 mg) are used, which is usually the case.

What about in situ contamination? While in situ contamination can sometimes occur, are we to believe that all the “anomalous” C-14 detected by the AMS method is the result of contamination? At some point, the contamination excuse begins to wear thin. Furthermore, contamination should not be assumed without good cause to suspect that it has occurred—and a test result that simply contradicts long-age dogma does not provide enough scientific reason to make such an assumption!

Skeptics may object that the number of reported instances of “anomalous” AMS C-14 detection is too small to justify questioning the iconic long-age timescale. We disagree, but we encourage these skeptics to submit additional dinosaur bones, fossilized wood, coal, and diamond for further AMS testing. We are confident that additional testing will only strengthen the case for a biblically consistent age of the earth.

References

  1. Hebert, J. 2013. Rethinking Carbon-14 Dating: What Does It Really Tell Us about the Age of the Earth? Acts & Facts. 42 (4): 12-14.
  2. Baumgardner, J. 2005. Carbon-14 Evidence for a Recent Global Flood and a Young Earth. In Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth: Results of a Young-Earth Creationist Research Initiative. Vardiman, L., A. A. Snelling, and E. F. Chaffin, eds. San Diego, CA: Institute for Creation Research and Chino Valley, AZ: Creation Research Society, 587-630.
  3. Giem, P. 2001. Carbon-14 Content of Fossil Carbon. Origins. 51: 6-30.
  4. Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth. See www.icr.org/rate.

* Dr. Hebert is Research Associate at the Institute for Creation Research and received his Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Texas at Dallas.

Cite this article: Hebert, J. 2013. Do Young C-14 Results Reflect Contamination? Acts & Facts. 42 (7): 20.

The Latest
NEWS
Ireland’s First Dinosaur Bones Found in Flood Rocks
Ireland finally has some dinosaur fossils of its own.1 The ground-breaking discovery came as a bit of a surprise, however, as the bones were...

NEWS
Control Loops in Humans and Nature
Ever had a blood test? Along with a value measured, there are also the normal max/min limits for that value. This implies that the body normally controls...

NEWS
Creation and Climate Science with Dr. Jake Hebert
ICR physicist Dr. Jake Hebert* recently made a guest appearance on Good Heavens! A Podcast About the Universe with Wayne and Dan. Dr. Hebert presented...

NEWS
Inside May 2021 Acts & Facts
How should Christians respond when authorities are in conflict with God’s Word? Can we trust scientific measurements and reports about fossil...

ACTS & FACTS
Creation Kids: Volcanoes
Christy Hardy and Susan Windsor* You’re never too young to be a creation scientist! Kids, discover fun facts about God’s creation with...

ACTS & FACTS
Tributes of Honor and Remembrance
At the end of a long day, a boss I had early in my career would often tell me, “No more today, Henry. My brain is full.” I found his comments...

APOLOGETICS
Guided by Lynx to Appreciate Christ
Not all tour guides in Alaska are human. Amazing animals of Alaska can guide us into learning creation truth. In fact, such animals should direct us—like...

ACTS & FACTS
Zion National Park: Evidence of Deep Water Sand Waves
Brian Thomas, Ph.D., and Tim Clarey, Ph.D.* It was like driving into another world when we emerged from Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel right at dawn....

ACTS & FACTS
Is the Bible Evidence for Creation?
Have you ever had a skeptic tell you to keep the Bible out of it when discussing origins? Skeptics claim we Christians argue in a circle, that we are...

ACTS & FACTS
Vertebrate Origins on the Ropes…Again
In 1859, the Western world was turned upside down by the publication of Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection or...