Reprinted from Apologetics Press
by Michael G. Houts, Ph.D.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: The following article was written by A.P. staff scientist Dr. Houts who holds a Ph.D. in Nuclear Engineering from MIT and serves as the Nuclear Research Manager for NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center.]
Scientific advances continue to confirm the Bible in all areas where science can be applied. Advances in life science have shown that even the simplest life is vastly more complicated than anything humans have ever made, and believing life could somehow “make itself” is more absurd than believing a space shuttle could do the same (Miller, 2013). Research related to the human genome has uncovered the incredible complexity of DNA, and the idea that random mutations followed by natural selection could somehow turn a single cell into all of the different forms of life we see around us is being further discredited each day (Sanford, 2008). In these areas (and others) it is obvious that true science is the Christian’s friend, and the enemy of religions that use evolution as their foundation.
Because true science continues to discredit the Theory of Evolution, atheists have been forced to focus discussion on topics where conclusions are drawn primarily based on the assumptions that are made, and not on actual science. If an unsuspecting individual can be convinced to accept atheistic assumptions, they can then often be convinced that atheism may be true or, at least, that portions of the Bible may be false.
One example is the subject of “age.” When one examines the subject, it becomes clear that all dating methods rely on assumptions that may or may not be correct. Because all dating methods ultimately rely on assumptions that cannot be empirically proven, the battle is no longer a scientific one (where the atheist or agnostic would lose), but a battle to convince individuals (and society) to accept atheistic assumptions without question. Within groups already dedicated to finding an atheistic explanation for the Universe and everything in it, the atheist has the upper hand.
Assumptions Related to Carbon Dating
An excellent example of the importance of assumptions is Carbon-14 dating. In a nutshell, if a person assumes the Bible is false, Carbon-14 dating can be used to “show” the Bible is false. If a person assumes the Bible is true, then Carbon-14 dating is shown to be consistent with the biblical account.
More specifically, an atheist will usually assume that the Earth is billions of years old, and that uniformitarianism has generally prevailed. Although minor adjustments are allowed, an atheist would also typically assume that there have been no large scale changes in the atmospheric ratio of Carbon-14 to carbon (14C/C; currently about one part per trillion) for at least the past several hundred thousand years.
From a Christian perspective, the Bible makes it clear that the Earth was created a few thousand years ago. In addition, a global flood occurred within the past 5,000 years. Uncertainties in the distribution and concentration of Carbon-14 at the end of Creation week, coupled with the potential for significant (two orders of magnitude) changes in Carbon-14 concentration caused by removal of carbon from the biosphere during the Flood, make it impossible to estimate Carbon-14 concentrations in the atmosphere much before a few centuries after the Flood. Additional uncertainties are added due to changes in the Earth’s magnetic field, the Sun’s magnetic field, the cosmic ray flux reaching the Earth’s atmosphere, and other factors which can dramatically affect Carbon-14 production rates.
To estimate the age of a carbon containing sample, the standard equation C = Co (e-λt) is used, where C is the currently measured Carbon-14 (14C) concentration; Co is the 14C concentration at the time of an organism’s death (assumed); e is the base of natural logarithms (2.71828); λ is 0.6931 divided by the half-life of 14C; and t is time. Solving the equation for time (given the current 14C half-life of 5,730 years), one obtains t = ln(C/Co)/-0.000121, where “t” is the time in years since the source of the carbon in the sample died.
The importance of the assumptions that are used to date a specimen can be demonstrated as follows. Suppose a carbon containing sample is found with a Carbon-14 concentration 2% that of today. Using the typical atheistic assumptions stated above, the age would be calculated as t = ln(0.02)/-.000121 = 32,330 years. However, if biblically consistent assumptions are made, a significantly different age would be estimated. For example, if a reasonable assumption was made concerning potential effects of the Flood (for instance, that near the time of the Flood Co was 1/30th that of today), then the same measured data would yield an age of t = ln(0.02/0.0333)/-.000121 = 4,210 years.
From the same measured 14C/C ratio, one could either make atheistic assumptions and obtain a biblically inconsistent date, or make biblically consistent assumptions and obtain a biblically consistent date. The same measured data yields a non-biblical date (32,330 years) if the Bible is presupposed to be wrong (i.e., no Flood and no recent Creation) and a biblically consistent date (4,210 years) if potential effects from even a single biblical event are taken into account.
In addition to the Flood, there are numerous other factors that could affect Co in artifacts created near the time of the Flood. For example, the total energy in the Earth’s magnetic field has been measured to be decreasing with time (Humphreys, 1984). The Earth’s magnetic field shields the Earth from cosmic rays that form Carbon-14 in the Earth’s atmosphere. The stronger the magnetic field, the fewer cosmic rays enter the Earth’s atmosphere, and the lower the amount of Carbon-14 produced. The stronger magnetic field of the past could thus cause carbon-dated objects (using atheistic assumptions) to have a calculated age older than reality. It is also impossible to determine how much (if any) Carbon-14 was present in the original Creation, and if Carbon-14 was present, how it was initially distributed.
From a biblical perspective, the Flood was the most recent physical event that would have had a significant effect on the ratio of 14C/C. Consequently, the effect of assumptions on samples created more than a few centuries after the Flood are greatly reduced. Once the 14C/C ratio had time to stabilize following the Flood, both biblical models and atheistic models would use the same assumption for the initial condition, i.e., that the 14C/C ratio was about the same when the sample was formed as it is today.
Biblical and secular written records generally agree, and when there are disagreements, an assumption is made as to which source to believe. For very old objects, some archeological dating methods (including pottery styles, burial layer, etc.) give biblically inconsistent dates. However, most of these methods are ultimately calibrated to Carbon-14 dating. If the Carbon-14 dates are wrong (due to incorrect assumptions applied to the initial 14C/C ratio), then the dating methods calibrated to those dates will also be wrong. Attempts have also been made to use tree ring patterns for calibration, but those are also influenced by assumptions, especially if the potential for sub-annual tree ring growth following the Flood is taken into account (Miller, 2014).