How accurate is radiocarbon dating

Posted by / 02-Nov-2020 06:31

How accurate is radiocarbon dating

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].

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.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.In 2009, several leading researchers in the field established a detailed calibration of radiocarbon dating, based on a careful analysis of pristine corals, ranging back to approximately 50,000 years before the present epoch [Reimer2009].Here is a graph showing radiocarbon dates on the vertical axis and the calibrated age on the horizontal axis (shown here with permission from Johannes van der Plicht, one of the authors of the 2009 study).

how accurate is radiocarbon dating-75how accurate is radiocarbon dating-56how accurate is radiocarbon dating-37

Comparing these counts with a series of 651 radiocarbon-dated samples spanning this record, they obtained a calibration curve that is very close to the 2009 calibration shown above [Callaway2012]. It should be emphasized that the actual calibrated dates are about 10%-20% older than the raw uncorrected radiocarbon dates that were once used.