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No one seriously proposes that all the determined dates are without error, but we do not know how many of them are in error—25%? The sharp reduction in previously estimated dates for the close of the glacial period (a date which had been estimated mainly on the basis of counts of varved clays presumably laid down by the retreating ice sheet) has been a source of much argument among Pleistocene geologists as to the relative merits of the varve method (which gave a date of over 20,000 years) and the radiocarbon method (which gave a date of about 11,000 years). Ernst Antevs, has sharply criticized the radiocarbon method, as a result: In appraising C 14 dates, it is essential always to discriminate between the C 14 age and the actual age of the sample.
The laboratory analysis determines only the amount of radioactive carbon present …
By the application of some very well thought-out techniques, Libby and his colleagues have actually not only identified the radiocarbon in nature, but have also made quantitative estimates thereof.
Since this carbon in the atmosphere mostly becomes attached to oxygen to form carbon dioxide, and since the carbon dioxide is ingested by plants and animals and is incorporated in their biological structures, and further, since this process stops at the time of the death of the specimen, the percentage of radiocarbon among the normal carbon atoms in its system can be used to establish the date at which the specimen stops metabolizing.7-68 There is no doubt that this constitutes a very ingenious and powerful dating tool, provided only that the inherent assumptions are valid.
In particular, recent discoveries of human remains in Western Europe have been proposed to be sites of the earliest arrival of humans there, and have been dated to the Early Pleistocene by Electron Spin Resonance ESR using quartz and tooth enamel.
This, of course, covers the apparent periods of Biblical history, as well as more recent dates, and so bears directly upon the question of the Flood and other related events. Describing the Carbon 14 dating method which has resulted, Korff says: Cosmic ray neutrons, produced as secondary particles in the atmosphere by the original radiation, are captured by nitrogen nuclei to form the radioactive isotope of carbon, the isotope of mass 14.
Much more must be done on chemical purification of samples.7-73 The problem of atmospheric contamination by fossil fuels has also come in for some consideration, since the burning of coal and oil during the past century and more has added measurably to the amount of carbon dioxide in the carbon cycle.
A recent study on the quantitative aspect of this factor concludes: …
it follows that atmospheric carbon dioxide has probably been diluted to the extent of about 3½ percent with carbon dioxide from the combustion of fossil fuels.
The radiocarbon evidence indicates, on the basis of a comparison of the radiocarbon assays of old, historically dated marine shells from the Atlantic coast with the assays of their modern counter-parts, that there has been a perceptible dilution of shallow oceanic carbonates with dead carbon from fossil fuels.