Some so-called creation scientists have attempted to show that radiometric dating does not work on theoretical grounds (for example, Arndts and Overn 1981; Gill 1996) but such attempts invariably have fatal flaws (see Dalrymple 1984; York and Dalrymple 2000).Other creationists have focused on instances in which radiometric dating seems to yield incorrect results.In most instances, these efforts are flawed because the authors have misunderstood or misrepresented the data they attempt to analyze (for example, Woodmorappe 1979; Morris HM 1985; Morris JD 1994).Only rarely does a creationist actually find an incorrect radiometric result (Austin 1996; Rugg and Austin 1998) that has not already been revealed and discussed in the scientific literature.Those of us who have developed and used dating techniques to solve scientific problems are well aware that the systems are not perfect; we ourselves have provided numerous examples of instances in which the techniques fail.We often test them under controlled conditions to learn when and why they fail so we will not use them incorrectly. For example, after extensive testing over many years, it was concluded that uranium-helium dating is highly unreliable because the small helium atom diffuses easily out of minerals over geologic time.As explained below, the radiocarbon date tells us when the organism was alive (not when the material was used).
Such failures may be due to laboratory errors (mistakes happen), unrecognized geologic factors (nature sometimes fools us), or misapplication of the techniques (no one is perfect).Try, for example, wearing a watch that is not waterproof while swimming. A few verified examples of incorrect radiometric ages are simply insufficient to prove that radiometric dating is invalid.It will probably fail, but what would a reasonable person conclude from that? All they indicate is that the methods are not infallible.Radiocarbon dating is one of the most widely used scientific dating methods in archaeology and environmental science.
It can be applied to most organic materials and spans dates from a few hundred years ago right back to about 50,000 years ago - about when modern humans were first entering Europe.Common materials for radiocarbon dating are: The radiocarbon formed in the upper atmosphere is mostly in the form of carbon dioxide. Because the carbon present in a plant comes from the atmosphere in this way, the radio of radiocarbon to stable carbon in the plant is virtually the same as that in the atmosphere.