Christian perspective on carbon dating

Creation Science Issues, Radiometric Dating - A Christian Perspective

christian perspective on carbon dating

One of the biggest scientific misconceptions that plagues the untrained minds of Christians and non-believers alike is Carbon dating. Carbon dating from a christian perspective. Carbon Dating: What it Means to the Christian Faith. Maggie Steinrauf. Loading Unsubscribe. This has caused many in the church to reevaluate the biblical creation With our focus on one particular form of radiometric dating—carbon .. Carbon data is now firmly on the side of the young-earth view of history

The reality is that the science is rather elegant in its function. The challenge is that it operates under a set of assumptions. Any scientist with an open mind would tell you that if these assumptions were shifted towards a Biblical view, the carbon dating process would still work, though at a much shorter time scale. In other words, whether you assume that the planet is billions of years old or if you believe that the earth is thousands of years old, carbon dating still works in both situations.

In several documented situations when carbon dating ran contrary to common scientific assumptions, the results were only an anomaly if the world were billions of years old.

If the earth were thousands of years old, the results of these tests would have fit in perfectly. Carbon 14C is a radioactive isotope of carbon that is in a constant state of decay.

Scientists are able to determine the age of formerly living materials by determining the amount of 14C relative to the amount of Carbon 12C. Since the former is radioactive and decays at a constant pace while the latter is stable, the ratio between the two can determine the age of anything that was on the earth and breathed.

Radioactive isotopes like 14C decay at a constant rate relative to the amount of material present. In the case of 14C, it has a half-life of 5, years. This means that if you have 2 grams of 14C today, in 5, years you will have 1 gram of 14C. Since 14C has a steady half-life and the known ratio of our environment is currently at 1 part 14C to 1 trillion parts 12C, scientists can use this to determine how long ago the creature leaving behind their remains had died.

Scientific Assumptions There are two major assumptions that are impossible to prove or disprove. The first is that the earth is old. Based upon the Big Bang theory as well as the theory of evolution, most scientists and therefore the general public believe that the universe and the world are billions of years old. This assumption allows for 14C dating to apply to former-living material as old as 80, years before it becomes too difficult to distinguish between 14C radiation and other radioactive isotopes such as Potassium 40K.

Carbon-14 Dating Does Not Disprove the Bible

The second assumption is that the level of 14C in the environment is mostly constant. It was believed for two centuries that it was an absolute constant, but scientists have recently discovered that it fluctuates based upon several different factors. This is the biggest assumption that is challenged by many scientists today because 14C is produced when cosmic rays hit the upper atmosphere and change Nitrogen into 14C.

Since the amount of cosmic rays hitting these Nitrogen atoms is affected by the magnetic field of the earth and that field has been in a diminishing state since it was first observed in the midth century, many scientists have a hard time assuming that the levels of 14C in the atmosphere is anywhere near constant enough to use in measurements.

Today it is about 10 percent weaker than it was when German mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss started keeping tabs on it inscientists say. Having said this, one of the views of biblical cosmology, geology and evolution has in the public media been given the label "Intelligent Design. So, how can we characterize the view of what has become known as the Intelligent Design movement?

Advocates from within the Intelligent Design movement accept the scientifically supported claim that the earth is about 4. They also generally accept the scientific consensus that the universe is about Advocates of this view do not believe that the "days" of creation are literal twenty-four hour periods.

It seems that the thing which unites those in the ID camp is that they are quite skeptical of organic evolution in the broadest sense and reject a strict interpretation of common descent.

This supernatural intervention includes the special creation ex nihilo of human beings. There will not be a strict agreement amongst intelligent design advocates as to how broad or narrow these created kinds are. Generally, they reject macroevolution but accept microevolution, but how great an amount of change might have occurred by natural, undirected processes will vary greatly in this school.

At the risk of over-simplifying, the intelligent design view is strongly associated with the concept of "irreducible complexity. Such irreducible complexity as a scientific and mathematical theory proves that naturalistic evolution is an incorrect view according to the ID position. There are "gaps" which natural processes simply cannot fill. The ID movement does not reject evolution entirely.

In fact, they generally support the teaching of evolutionary theory in classrooms, but advocate the inclusion of evidence for supernatural intervention in origin of species as well. To summarize, the intelligent design position accepts the geological and cosmological implication of an ancient earth and universe, and therefore reject the literal interpretation of the days of Genesis one, they reject using the evidence for common descent as proof that God did not create various "kinds" of life and instead claim that science requires accepting that there are gaps which require supernatural intervention.

Progressive Creation In the interest of "truth in advertising," let me say that the view we are labeling Progressive Creation is the one I took in our upcoming forum. Let me also say that I really do not like this label. One reason for this is that the ID view can be described as progressive creation. I prefer the label theistic evolution for the third of our views of evolution, but my colleagues in the forum do not necessarily agree with my taking that label for the simple reason that all of us are theists and all of us are describing a view of evolution which can be seen as theistic although I will argue below that EC has some deistic aspects in its view of evolution.

Putting aside for now concern over the label, let me describe our third view of evolution. I, and those who happen to agree with me [1] and are willing to be called progressive creationists, accept that the earth is quite old approximately 4. Those in this camp may lean toward a more literary view of the Genesis creation account [2]or may take the view of scientific concordism, that there is at least a general scientific truth in the chronology, if not the time span, in Genesis.

The main distinction between this view and Intelligent Design at least as defined aboveis that it accepts the main implications of evolution.

It sees common descent as a scientifically verified hypothesis. The Progressive Creationist is skeptical of scientific "gap arguments," claiming that such arguments are weak and that historically they have not held up well to scrutiny. What distinguishes this view from Evolutionary Creationism, is that it rejects for theological reasons the conclusion that evolution is a fully random process-completely devoid of the interventionary influence of God.

The PC argument is that God is not distant, but that he is involved in his creation. There is a kind of free will in history, in our personal lives and in the way nature works, but God does, at various times and for reasons of his own intervene in our personal lives-to answer prayers, for example.

God does not jerk us around and constantly interfere with our freedom by working miracles, but he definitely is involved. The same is true in history.

God allows for a general free will in history, but God has intervened in subtle ways and even in dramatic ways. For example he influences the hearts of world leaders such as Cyrus and Nebuchadnezzar and he also intervened to bring Israel out of Egypt and to send his Son into the world.

christian perspective on carbon dating

If it is established that for us as individuals and for nations as well that God gives a general free will, but that he does influence and even dramatically intervene for reasons of his sovereign will, then the PC perspective is that almost certainly this is what God has done with nature. Nature, by it fully random self, would NOT have produced intelligent, soul-containing creatures able to know God.

The Progressive Creationist does not have a problem with the scientific evidence for common descent. He or she is even prepared to accept the possibility that all life has a single progenitor, although the possibility of multiple creations is not completely ruled out.

christian perspective on carbon dating

The main point to be understood here is that the "evidence" for theistic interference is not scientific. Rather it is a theological argument. This position rejects the God-of-no-Gaps position of Evolutionary Creationism, but accept as more or less established the common descent of all or of nearly all life. Evolutionary Creationism The fourth Christian view of evolution which will be defended in our forum is known by some as Evolutionary Creationism.

In our forum, this view is represented ably by Denis Lamoureux. Perhaps the most well-known advocate of this view is Francis Collins, former head of the Genome Project and now head of the National Institutes of Health. The evolutionary creationist accepts the common scientific view of the age of the earth and of the universe. He or she goes still farther and accepts the rather strong evidence for common descent as sufficient to conclude that the natural processes of random mutation, genetic drift, natural selection and so forth, as described in neo-Darwinian theory, is sufficient to explain the evolution of all species, including human beings from the simplest early life form or forms.

Carbon Dating Does Not Disprove the Bible

God is sufficiently wise to have created physical circumstances which inevitably led, through thoroughly random, natural processes, to the final result, which is the existence of intelligent, sentient beings, capable of having a relationship with God. The Evolutionary Creationist typically is prepared to accept that even our consciousness and our ability to have a relationship with God has "evolved.

This position, as I described above, is a God-of-no-gaps theology. All EC supporters I know of believe that life itself was created by God only indirectly. In other words, he created a universe and a world in which life was spontaneously created.

This ties in to the tendency of EC supporters to reject supernatural intervention by God into nature in general. It is essentially a deistic view, not of theology, but of the workings of nature.

christian perspective on carbon dating

As for Genesis chapter one, those who accept EC will be nearly unanimous in rejecting scientific concordism the idea that there is real scientific information in the Genesis story, even if in metaphorical form. Instead, they will take the literary interpretation of the Genesis creation account.

In other words, they accept the theology of the first several chapters of Genesis, but not the history of this material. God was accommodating the knowledge base of ancient Hebrews and giving them theological information about Him as creator, as one who wants a relationship with us and so forth. It will probably be fair to generalize the EC position to say that it rejects the idea of a "fall" of man occurring in the Garden of Eden.

In fact, as a group most evolutionary creationists say that there was no Garden of Eden at all, but that this story represents the fall of all of us from the innocence with which we were created, and our separation from God due to our own, individual sin.

Young Earth Creationism The YEC position is strong in that it gives great honor to the Bible and places the idea of verbal inspiration on a high pedestal. The other three perspectives will of course reject this conclusion, but the young earth position clearly represents the most natural interpretation of the literal sense of Genesis chapter one. As a rule, the young earth Christian believes that biblical authority trumps general revelation. If science seems to point one way, but the Bible another, the Bible wins; period.

Of course, one can see this as either a strength or a weakness.

christian perspective on carbon dating

One could use as support for this line of thinking the fact that all Christians believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead and clearly this cannot be reconciled with a purely scientific mode of explanation.

The weakness of the young earth position is that it requires rejecting general revelation almost entirely. General revelation is the idea that God reveals himself, at least to a limited extent, through what he has created. The reason this creates a problem for the YEC position is that they reject the implications of cosmology, geology and biology. Despite the evidence from the red shift, cosmic background radiation and so forth, the YEC believer must reject big bang cosmology.

In doing so, they reject the entire science of cosmology. Similarly, the YEC position requires that we reject the evidence of radioisotopic dating techniques, sedimentary layers, the evidence for plate tectonics and so forth.

Basically, the young earth position must reject the two main paradigms of geology-uniformitarianism and plate tectonics-as an illusion. So YEC rejects scientific cosmology and geology, but they must reject a great chunk of biological theory as well, as nearly everything we think we know about how living things work is reliant on an evolutionary perspective.

If we reject cosmology, geology and major parts of biology, then how is it that nature declares the glory of God? What I mean is that it is nearly inescapable that the universe and the earth appear to be quite old based on the evidence and scientific analysis. To reject this is to refuse to look at the scientific evidence. Galileo once told his opponents that if they wanted to reject heliocentrism, they were going to have to stop looking through telescopes. The same applies to the young earth position, unless one proposes that God created the earth, as is, several thousand years ago, but he created it with an "appearance of age.

A possible response to this is, who are we to tell God what to do? When Jesus created fish, it was ready to eat. Was he deceiving the people? No, he was doing what God has every right and power to do. In summary, the theology of the YEC position and the great honor it gives to the sovereignty of God and the inspiration of his words is a strength, but the "science" of the YEC position is extremely weak.

They must reject cosmology, geology and much of biology as an illusion. Although some ID supporters are prepared to question some of the chronology of the Genesis creation account, they generally accept scientific concordism and agree with Jesus and the other Bible writers that there is historical truth in the first several chapters of Genesis. The ID believer accepts fully the scientific implications of cosmology and of geology. The intelligent design supporters as a whole are prepared to accept most of the implications of what we know from fossil and DNA evidence with respect to the relationship between large classes of species.

Of course, one can see it as a strength or as a weakness, but the ID camp in general rejects the full implications of neo-Darwinism. They see huge chasms or gaps in the evidence with regard to evolution which random processes simply could not cross. Whatever one thinks, we can concede that gap arguments are difficult to prove. For this reason, even if the ID position is correct and personally, I am quite prepared to accept that they may be it is open to legitimate complaint from scientists.

Bottom line, supernatural intervention into what we know already on some level is a natural process is difficult or perhaps even impossible to prove using science. Miraculous intervention is, by definition, not a "scientific" event and it certainly is not capable of being reproduced in the laboratory. Of course, this does not prove that the gaps are not there, and it does not prove that God did not create particular species at various points in time or that he did not zap into existence various complex biochemical systems, but it is hard to defend this in a scientific setting.

So the weakness of ID is not in its theology. Its theology is quite strong. It allows for theism in our individual lives, in history and in the physical world. Its weakness, such as it is, is in its science. It accepts cosmology and geology but it does not fully accept biology. At least that is how some will view the matter.

Its scientific arguments will quite likely remain weak. In fact, just in the last ten to fifteen years, a number of ID supporters have had to change some of their claims of certain gaps in the formation of complex enzyme machinery because experimental evidence showed that the supposed "gap" was fully bridgeable by natural events.

Speaking for myself, I happen to agree with the idea of supernatural intervention by God in the process which led to higher forms of life, but I prefer not to rely on gap arguments and to let my theism with respect to evolution remain a theological claim. Progressive Creation Yes, of course I am going to critique this view!

It certainly has weak points. It is consistent in that it accepts a theistic view of how God interacts with individuals, with history and with nature. It has a consistent view with regard to how God interacts with people, with peoples and with creation.

It is also consistent in accepting more or less fully the scientific conclusions of cosmology, geology and biology.

christian perspective on carbon dating

The virtually "slam dunk" evidence for common descent is seen, not as an illusion but as a reflection that in fact, life has evolved through largely random processes, except with the "finger" of God determining the path of change. It does not rely on scientific "gap" arguments. Instead it replaces a scientific argument against random design with a theological one, so will not have to back down when claimed gaps are filled in by science.

So the strength of PC is its consistent view of theology and science, but its weakness is that it is vague and really hard to tie down scientifically. It will probably be seen as quite convenient to claim that God has intervened in the natural process by which life changes, but to create a position which does not have to defend this view scientifically. To quote from a personal comment from my EC friend Dr Denis Lamoureux, "I certainly cannot teach that in my science classroom.

This view sounds like an attempt to make everybody happy, but sometimes when we try to make everyone happy, we make no one happy. This view is a bit complicated. It has a lot of nuance, allowing for both free will in nature in almost all cases, but holding out for undefined and therefore hard to disprove theistic interventions, whereas EC and YEC and perhaps, but to a lesser extent ID are simpler and easier to defend logically.

My personal response to the claim that this view is a bit too complicated and that it is a bit fishy because it is hard to tie down is that I believe God is simple yet in some ways he is complicated. He can at the same time foreknow yet not predetermine.

He can perfectly balance love and justice. Jesus is with God and he IS God. That is a tough one to logically explain. I also believe that God can wonderfully balance his sovereign will and our freedom to choose, and that he does so in the way he interacts with his creation.

Evolutionary Creationism The strengths of evolutionary creationism are the consistent way it deals with scripture and with the evidence of science.

Supporters of this view see God as so powerful that at the moment he created the universe, a series of events was set into place which would inevitably lead to the formation of galaxies, stars, planets, including one with an atmosphere and the conditions for primitive life to form spontaneously, and even eventually would lead to us.

This is not some sort of weak God who has to correct the path of his creation. What an awesome God this is! To top it off, the Evolutionary Creationist position can, in principle, bring to an end the incessant arguments and even attacks from those scientists who for philosophical reasons oppose even theological arguments for supernatural interventions in the physical world.