ICR Says: Carbon-14 — It’s Everywhere!

This is a powerful post from the creation scientists at the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) — the granddaddy of all creationist outfits, the fountainhead of young-earth creationist wisdom. It’s titled Radiocarbon in Yet Another Dinosaur Fossil, written by Brian Thomas. At the end it says: “Dr. Thomas is Research Associate at the Institute for Creation Research and earned his Ph.D. in paleobiochemistry from the University of Liverpool.” Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis, and occasional Curmudgeonly interjections that look [like this]:

Creation-based thinking made a testable prediction. [Really?] If Noah’s Flood formed dinosaur and other fossils only 4,500 or so years ago, then they may still contain measurable amounts of the short-lived radioactive isotope carbon-14 — also called radiocarbon. On the other hand, any fossil deposited before the limit of carbon-14 longevity (around 100,000 theoretical years ago) would have no carbon-14 left.

There are many problems with that. First is the notion that creationism makes a testable prediction. Most of the creationists whose writings we encounter have no idea what that means, because their creationism is entirely based on faith. Also, because creationists are always claiming that the Earth is young, they deny the value of Radiometric dating — not just Carbon 14, but all of it. They say that radioactive decay rates may have been different in the past, so it’s wrong to rely on them. Brian himself recently said so. It’s his third point in ICR: Ten ‘Fake Facts’ of Evolution. Finally, if the Earth (and therefore all fossils) were young, then why wouldn’t every fossil contain carbon-14?

Anyway, Brian says:

Examples of radiocarbon discoveries that are out-of-place for evolutionary time keep stacking up. Medical doctor Paul Giem accumulated dozens of examples back in 2001. [Link in a footnote.] His long list of secular publications cited radiocarbon in coal, oil, and marble. It inspired the ICR RATE project to look for radiocarbon in deeply buried coal and in supposedly ancient diamonds. RATE found radiocarbon at levels above the background blanks in all samples. [Footnote reference to ICR]

The TalkOrigins Index to Creationist Claims has lots of useful information on this. See, e.g.: Coal and oil are supposedly millions of years old. Effectively all of the carbon-14 in a sample would have decayed in that time. But carbon-14 still exists in coal, implying an age of only about 50,000 years.

Anyway, Brian tells us:

In our 2015 report of new fossil samples with radiocarbon, coauthor Vance Nelson and I summarized a few dozen already published wood, shell, and bone fossils that bore evolutionary ages far in excess of their radiocarbon levels. That list had almost fifty samples. [Almost fifty!] Now, a Chicago Field Museum-led team published one more in the journal eLife. [Footnote to Cretaceous dinosaur bone contains recent organic material and provides an environment conducive to microbial communities.] It seems as though almost everywhere we look, we find young-looking carbon.

Yeah, it’s everywhere! He continues:

ICR physicist Jake Hebert’s words from 2013 seem more appropriate today than ever:

[He quotes the ICR creation scientist:] 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!

We agree. At some point, nonsense wears thin. Brian finishes with this:

With young-looking radiocarbon in over 60 [That many?] supposedly millions-of-years-old fossils, plus this new Centrosaurus [Wowie — that’s 61!], the contamination excuse is starting to look silly.

Somebody looks silly, we agree. So who is it, dear reader? The creation scientists, or the hell-bound evolutionists?

Copyright © 2019. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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10 responses to “ICR Says: Carbon-14 — It’s Everywhere!

  1. Uh, even in life seashells would not be expected to have Carbon-14 since they do not get their carbon from the atmosphere, so it *has* to be contamination by definition.

  2. It has been known for decades that could contains 14C. The more fully graphitised it is, the less 14C, and graphite from coal seams contains none (we can check this by exposing a freshly cleaved surface). Fossils contain an unavoidable amount of 14C from the cleaning process, as discussed by Davidson and Wolgemuth (I discussed this at https://paulbraterman.wordpress.com/2018/07/07/can-we-trust-radiocarbon-dating/).

    Actually this is a boomerang argument. if as creationists claim mammoths and dinosaurs are separated by at most a very few hundred years, why is it that the mammoths have a crudely measured apparent radiometric age as low as 4,500 yr while the dinosaurs have at least ten times that long?

  3. @Paul Braterman
    That just goes to show that the whole enterprise of Carbon-14 dating is unreliable.

  4. Ah, Carbon-14! That reminds me of my first encounter with a YE creationist (I still have vivid nightmares from that evening). C-14 was his second line of attack. With its half-life time of 5730 years C-14 should be their biggest enemy, so they turn it into a weapon.
    Every analytical method gives you some kind of result if you push it beyond its intended, useful domain. With coal, oil and diamonds you can also get activation of native C-12 from surrounding natural radioactivity. And then there is contamination, of course.

  5. Desnes Diev

    [P. Braterman:] “why is it that the mammoths have a crudely measured apparent radiometric age as low as 4,500 yr while the dinosaurs have at least ten times that long?”

    Must be due either to what they ate or to the Flood.

    Seriously, the very low levels of 14C in specimens older than a few thousand years disprove creationists’ delusions: if dinosaurs died 3-5 000 years ago, we should record higher levels of 14C in their bones. If they want to be logical (yes, I know the problem), they could not accept the technique and reject the results at their convenience. And they accept the technique because some creationists used carbon radiometric dating to “prove” that they discovered Noah’s ark.

  6. “Creation-based thinking made a testable prediction.”
    That’s news indeed. Fortunately Brawny Brian is a master of the remedy called explaining away.

    @TomS omits an important bit: “That just goes to show that the whole enterprise of Carbon-14 dating is unreliable”
    except when it seems to confirm YEC’s predetermined conclusion of 6000 years (or, in Brawny Brian’s case, not many millions of years).

  7. Karl Goldsmith

    Sod carbon, at less than 6,000 years old they should be able to DNA them.

  8. I suspect that for every one of his 50 irregular samples, there must be hundreds if not thousands of samples that neatly fit the hypothesis.

  9. Ah, Draken, but suddenly Brawny Brian and co find themselves an unexpected ally: Karl Popper and his falisfiability! His few examples are more than enough to falsify evolution theory, deep time geology, Big Bang and everything else YECers don’t like! Checkmate!

  10. “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…”

    The whole science of radiocarbon dating has been one of removing contamination from samples. The quantity of C14 in even a recent sample is minute. Indeed, it is true “contamination should not be assumed without good cause to suspect that it has occurred”. But there is good cause to suspect that it has occurred – contamination is the norm. The science is not just in measuring the fraction of C14 but ensuring that every potential cause of error is assessed, reduced as far as possible, and expressed as an uncertainty in the final result. It is not just a case of giving the sample a quick wipe over with an oily rag before throwing it into an AMS and reading the ‘age’ on a dial. It is rather obvious that ‘creation scientists’ are careful to use whatever methods they can find to produce anomalous results.