Radiocarbon dating dates back to
In other words, those hoping that uncertainties in radiocarbon dating, say in the assumption of constancy of atmospheric carbon-14 levels, will mean that specimens are really much younger than the measured dates, are in for a big disappointment -- it is now clear that specimens are actually somewhat older than the raw, uncalibrated reckonings.As mentioned above, young-earth creationist writers have cited various anomalies and potential difficulties with radiocarbon dating, and have used these examples to justify their conclusion that the entire scheme is flawed and unreliable.Since it is chemically indistinguishable from the stable isotopes of carbon (carbon-12 and carbon-13), radiocarbon is taken by plants during photosynthesis and then ingested by animals regularly throughout their lifetimes.
In discussions of the age of the Earth and the antiquity of the human race, creationists often assail perceived weaknesses in radiocarbon dating. Morris, for instance, wrote, "Despite its high popularity, [radiocarbon dating] involves a number of doubtful assumptions, some of which are sufficiently serious to make its results for all ages exceeding about 2000 or 3000 years, in serious need of revision." [Morris2000, pg. Radiocarbon dating is based on the fact that the interaction of cosmic rays from outer space with nitrogen atoms in the atmosphere produces an unstable isotope of carbon, namely radiocarbon.
Because of this relatively short half-life, radiocarbon is useful for dating items of a relatively recent vintage, as far back as roughly 50,000 years before the present epoch.
Radiocarbon dating cannot be used for older specimens, because so little carbon-14 remains in samples that it cannot be reliably measured.
For instance, even in the 1950s, when Willard Libby first developed the process, it was recognized that the scheme assumes that the level of carbon-14 in the atmosphere is constant.
But researchers have known at least since 1969 that the carbon-14 level has not been constant, so that the radiocarbon clock needs to be "calibrated." As a result, various schemes are used to correct and calibrate radiocarbon dates, including: In each case, radiocarbon dates, determined by well-established procedures and calculations, are compared directly with dates determined by the above methods, thus permitting the radiocarbon dates to be accurately calibrated with distinct and independent dating techniques.
When the organism dies, the carbon 14 (C14) atoms disintegrate at a known rate, with a half-life of 5,700 years.