Can radiocarbon dating date

Creationists often criticize radiocarbon dating in the context of discussions of the age of the Earth.But, as is clear even from the very brief discussion in the previous paragraph, radiocarbon dating can say nothing one way or the other about whether the Earth is many millions of years old, since such dates are far beyond this method's range of resolution.The relative width of the red calibration curve indicates the range of uncertainty: In October 2012, a team led by Christopher Ramsey of Oxford University published a new study, based on analyses of varves (alternating light/dark bands in sediments) from Lake Suigetsu, which is located about 350 kilometers west of Tokyo, near the coast of the Sea of Japan.These researchers collected core samples 70 meters deep, and then painstakingly counted the layers, year by year, to obtain a direct record stretching back 52,000 years.For instance, creationist Walt Brown has pointed out inconsistencies in some radiocarbon dates of mammoths -- one part was dated to 40,000 years, another to 26,000 years (and wood surrounding it to 10,000 years), and yet another to between 15,000 and 21,000 years before the present epoch [Brown2001].However, in the scientific results mentioned by Brown, the dates come from different mammoth specimens.There are a variety of radiometric dating methods that can go back much farther than that. For example, samarium-neodymium dating can go back billions of years and get precision to within less than twenty million years.In theory radiocarbon dating can go back around 100,000 years, but it is really unreliable past 75,000 years.

Going back that far, the 5000 year range isn't so terrible.In any event, it must be emphasized once again that radiocarbon dating has no relevance one way or the other for the overall question of whether the Earth is many millions of years old, since the scheme can only be used to reliably date specimens less than approximately 50,000 years old.Additional background is available in a well-written Wikipedia article on the topic [Radiocarbon2011], and in Richard Wiens' article [Wiens2002].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.

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