reply to post by Harte
Harte: Dendrochronology, among other methods, is used to calibrate C14 dates, which is why you'll find terms like the "carbon date" or the
number of "carbon years" for artifacts that are dated this way.
SC: Dendrochronology, huh? Let's look at what the experts say:
Need I say more?
Harte: Sure. But you apparently won't.
Every method has its detractors. Obviously, you will not appreciate the times when C14 and dendrochronological methods agree with each other within
each ones' margin of error - which is the vast majority of times.
SC: The “vast majority of the times”. Really? I am not convinced by your statement nor share your confidence in the C14 technique, and for good
"The troubles of the radiocarbon dating method are undeniably deep and serious. Despite 35 years of technical refinement and better
understanding, the underlying assumptions have been strongly challenged and warnings are out that radiocarbon may soon find itself in a crisis
situation. Continuing use of the method depends on a 'fix-it-as-we-go' approach, allowing for contamination here, fractionation here, and calibration
whenever possible. It should be no surprise, then, that fully half of the dates are rejected. The wonder is, surely, that the remaining half come to
be accepted. … No matter how 'useful' it is, though, the radiocarbon method is still not capable of yielding accurate and reliable results. There
are gross discrepancies, the chronology is uneven and relative, and the accepted dates are actually selected dates.” – Robert E. Lee,
Radiocarbon, Ages in Error, (Anthropological Journal of Canada, Vol. 19, No.3, 1981, pp. 9, 29)
Harte: I suppose that this situation is merely coincidental in your mind, such as it is.
SC: It has little actually to do with what I consider to be “coincidental” but rather what other scientists (see above) have to say about the
technique. It is the conflicting accounts of the accuracy of C14 that gives me cause to doubt. If “fully half” of all C14 results are being
rejected as erroneous results how can we possibly know with any degree of certainty that the other half are any less spurious?
SC: As for C14 dating, I think these quotes sum up its problems quite concisely::
“Carbon dating is controversial for a couple of reasons. First of all, it's predicated upon a set of questionable assumptions. We have to assume,
for example, that the rate of decay (that is, a 5,730 year half-life) has remained constant throughout the unobservable past. However, there is strong
evidence which suggests that radioactive decay may have been greatly accelerated in the unobservable past.
Harte: This means that the further back you go, the less reliable C14 is. That's all it means.
SC: And yet “fully half” of all dates determined using this technique are rejected. Here’s what a couple of other archaeologists have to say on
“…when a radiocarbon date agrees with the expectations of the excavator it appears in the main text of the site report; if it is slightly
discrepant it is relegated to a footnote; if it seriously conflicts it is left out altogether.” - Centuries of Darkness, Peter James, Dr I. J.
Thorpe, Dr Nikos Kokkinos, Dr Robert Morkot and John Frankish, London: Jonathan Cape 1991
‘I’ve used carbon-14 dating… frankly, among archaeologists, carbon dating is a big joke. They send samples to the laboratories to be dated. If
it comes back and agrees with the dates they’ve already decided from the style of pottery, they will say, “Carbon-14 dating of this sample
confirms our conclusions.” But if it doesn’t agree, they just think the laboratory has got it wrong, and that’s the end of it. It’s only a
showcase. Archaeologists never (let me emphasize this) NEVER date their finds by carbon-14. They only quote it [C14 date] if it agrees with their
conclusions.’- David Down, Archaeologist
SC: Now the above archaeologists are not talking about artefacts that they assume to be 10, 20, 30 or 55 thousand years old. They are talking about
artefacts that are perhaps 2,3, 4 or 5 thousand years old. And yet the C14 dating technique STILL produces dates that the archaeologists completely
reject and do not publish. The dates that ARE published are nothing more than a showcase.
Of course, the assumption above that rates of decay have changed is a much shakier assumption that that they haven't. On top of that, why
should they have been "greatly accelerated"? They could as easily have been "greatly deccelerated."
SC: A simple volcanic eruption will change the nature and composition of the Earth’s biosphere. And you can shout dendrochronological calibration
until you are blue in the face – it ALSO is flawed. It’s like the blind leading the blind.
Harte: I'll tell you why. "Greatly accelerated" allows creationists to hold on to their pet "young Earth" ideas, while greatly deccelerated
does the opposite.
SC: I have no interest in people’s religious beliefs here – only in the science. There are many brilliant scientists out there with many
different religious ideas. Why condemn a brilliant scientists just because he happens to be a Jedi and believes in the Force? It’s the SCIENCE
that matters here.
Harte:Given that C14 can't possibly be used for any dates prior to about 55KYBP, and given that the vast majority of dates of interest are all
in the first quartile of that range, this objection becomes meaningless.
SC: Meaningless to you perhaps but not to the archaeologists and other scientists out in the field (see above quotes) who are left scratching their
heads when the C14 lab tells them what is believed to be a piece of Middle Kingdom mummy-wrapping is in fact 14,000 years old.
We must also assume that the ratio of C-12 to C-14 in the atmosphere has remained constant throughout the unobservable past (so we can know
what the ratio was at the time of the specimen's death). And yet we know that "radiocarbon is forming 28-37% faster than it is decaying," which means
it hasn't yet reached equilibrium, which means the ratio is higher today than it was in the unobservable past.
Harte: In fact, it means no such thing. There are known instances of increase (and decrease) in C14 production in the atmosphere and these events are
part of the calibration process. Are all such events known? Certainly not.
SC: And therein lies the problem.
Harte: That's why there is a margin of error.
SC: And how can you know that the margin of error should not be higher or lower?
SC: And this from the world's top Egyptologist, Dr Zahi Hawass:
“Not even in five thousand years could carbon dating help archaeology. We can use other kinds of methods like geoarchaeology, which is very
important, or DNA, or laser scanning, but carbon dating is useless. This science will never develop. In archaeology, we consider carbon dating results
imaginary." - Dr Zahi Hawass, Science Magazine, 18 June 2010
Harte: One wonders why you quoted this without the context. Wait. On second thought, one actually does not wonder this at all. Hawass' objection was
that the margin of error for the Egyptian time period is plus or minus 100 years. That is his only objection. He believes that things can be dated
more accurately by other means.
SC: Yes, a margin of error of the selected results
. This margin of error will not include the “fully half of dates that are rejected”.
This 100 year margin of error is nothing more than a smokescreen and Hawass knows this. Hawass knows exactly why he is rejecting the C14 dating method
– for the same reasons other archaeologists and other scientists have rejected it. Hawass knows all about the selected results
Harte: Don't believe me? Doesn't anyone wonder why Scott didn't link to the article?
Here: Archaeologist comments on carbon dating - science magazine (reprint.)
SC: I gave the source to the Hawass quote. You managed to find the source article I would guess within a matter of seconds using Google – as could
anyone interested enough in so doing. What’s your point?
In my opinion the jury is well and truly out as far as C14 dating goes and I say this only from what I have read of both sides of the C14 debate. I
accept the THEORY sounds good but to my mind accepting the C14 dating method when so many other scientists seriously question it and when half of all
results it presents are considered spurious cannot remotely be considered reasonable. To believe in such a questionable method can in no way, in my
opinion, be considered a matter of science but rather a matter of faith. And where is the science in faith?
edit on 3/11/2010 by Scott Creighton because: Typo