Range of radiocarbon dating

Radiocarbon dating, which is also known as carbon-14 dating, is one widely used radiometric dating scheme to determine dates of ancient artifacts.

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.

It is in knowing what made past cultures cease to exist that could provide the key in making sure that history does not repeat itself.

Over the years, archaeology has uncovered information about past cultures that would have been left unknown had it not been with the help of such technologies as radiocarbon dating, dendrochronology, archaeomagnetic dating, fluoride dating, luminescence dating, and obsidian hydration analysis, among others.

Thus creationists and others who invoke perceived weaknesses in radiocarbon dating as justification to cast doubt on the great age of the earth are either uniformed on very basic scientific facts, or else are highly being disingenuous to their audience.

Radiocarbon dating has been studied at great length over the past few decades, and its strengths and weaknesses are very well understood at this point in time.

Historians can tell what cultures thrived in different regions and when they disintegrated.Various geologic, atmospheric and solar processes can influence atmospheric carbon-14 levels.Since the 1960s, scientists have started accounting for the variations by calibrating the clock against the known ages of tree rings.By measuring the ratio of the radio isotope to non-radioactive carbon, the amount of carbon-14 decay can be worked out, thereby giving an age for the specimen in question.But that assumes that the amount of carbon-14 in the atmosphere was constant — any variation would speed up or slow down the clock.