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They have their work cut out for them, however, because radiocarbon (C-14) dating is one of the most reliable of all the radiometric dating methods.
Question: But don't trees sometimes produce more than one growth ring per year? Answer: If anything, the tree-ring sequence suffers far more from missing rings than from double rings.
This means that the tree-ring dates would be slightly too young, not too old.
Carbon from these sources is very low in C-14 because these sources are so old and have not been mixed with fresh carbon from the air.
Thus, a freshly killed mussel has far less C-14 than a freshly killed something else, which is why the C-14 dating method makes freshwater mussels seem older than they really are.
ICR creationists claim that this discredits C-14 dating. Answer: It does discredit the C-14 dating of freshwater mussels, but that's about all.
Kieth and Anderson show considerable evidence that the mussels acquired much of their carbon from the limestone of the waters they lived in and from some very old humus as well.
The older an organism's remains are, the less beta radiation it emits because its C-14 is steadily dwindling at a predictable rate.
So, if we measure the rate of beta decay in an organic sample, we can calculate how old the sample is. Question: Kieth and Anderson radiocarbon-dated the shell of a living freshwater mussel and obtained an age of over two thousand years.
Question: A sample that is more than fifty thousand years old shouldn't have any measurable C-14. Radiocarbon dating doesn't work well on objects much older than twenty thousand years, because such objects have so little C-14 left that their beta radiation is swamped out by the background radiation of cosmic rays and potassium-40 (K-40) decay. this isotope [K-40] accounts for a large part of the normal background radiation that can be detected on the earth's surface" (p. This radiation cannot be totally eliminated from the laboratory, so one could probably get a "radiocarbon" date of fifty thousand years from a pure carbon-free piece of tin.
Coal, oil, and natural gas are supposed to be millions of years old; yet creationists say that some of them contain measurable amounts of C-14, enough to give them C-14 ages in the tens of thousands of years. Younger objects can easily be dated, because they still emit plenty of beta radiation, enough to be measured after the background radiation has been subtracted out of the total beta radiation. However, you now know why this fact doesn't at all invalidate radiocarbon dates of objects younger than twenty thousand years and is certainly no evidence for the notion that coals and oils might be no older than fifty thousand years.
Radiocarbon dating can easily establish that humans have been on the earth for over twenty thousand years, at least twice as long as creationists are willing to allow.