In the following article, some of the most common misunderstandings regarding radiocarbon dating are addressed, and corrective, up-to-date scientific creationist thought is provided where appropriate. Radiocarbon is used to date the age of rocks, which enables scientists to date the age of the earth.
It also has some applications in geology; its importance in dating organic materials cannot be underestimated enough.
In 1979, Desmond Clark said of the method “we would still be foundering in a sea of imprecisions sometime bred of inspired guesswork but more often of imaginative speculation” (3).
The decay of Carbon $14$ into stable Nitrogen $14$ does not take place in a regular, determined fashion: rather it is governed by the laws of probability and statistics formalized in the language of quantum mechanics.
As such, the reported half life of $5730 \pm 40$ years means that $40$ years is the standard deviation for the process and so we expect that roughly $68$ percent of the time half of the Carbon $14$ in a given sample will decay within the time span of $5730 \pm 40$ years.
By measuring the ratio of carbon-14 to stable carbon-12, scientists can then determine when the organism in question died.
When Libby developed the radiocarbon dating technique, he validated the method by comparing measured carbon ratios (carbon-14/carbon-12) from artifacts of known age with predictions of the ratio expected by assuming the decay rate.
The field of radiocarbon dating has become a technical one far removed from the naive simplicity which characterized its initial introduction by Libby in the late 1940's.
It is, therefore, not surprising that many misconceptions about what radiocarbon can or cannot do and what it has or has not shown are prevalent among creationists and evolutionists - lay people as well as scientists not directly involved in this field.
In the presentation speech for the 1960 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, one scientist described the work by honoree Willard Libby with these words: “Seldom has a single discovery in chemistry had such an impact on the thinking of so many fields of human endeavour.