Since the tree ring counts have reliably dated some specimens of wood all the way back to 6200 BC, one can check out the C-14 dates against the tree-ring-count dates.Admittedly, this old wood comes from trees that have been dead for hundreds of years, but you don't have to have an 8,200-year-old bristlecone pine tree alive today to validly determine that sort of date.
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.
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.
This article will answer several of the most common creationist attacks on carbon-14 dating, using the question-answer format that has proved so useful to lecturers and debaters. Answer: Cosmic rays in the upper atmosphere are constantly converting the isotope nitrogen-14 (N-14) into carbon-14 (C-14 or radiocarbon).
However, in either case, the background beta radiation has to be compensated for, and, in the older objects, the amount of C-14 they have left is less than the margin of error in measuring background radiation. Question: Creationists such as Cook (1966) claim that cosmic radiation is now forming C-14 in the atmosphere about one and one-third times faster than it is decaying.
As Hurley points out: Without rather special developmental work, it is not generally practicable to measure ages in excess of about twenty thousand years, because the radioactivity of the carbon becomes so slight that it is difficult to get an accurate measurement above background radiation. 108) Cosmic rays form beta radiation all the time; this is the radiation that turns N-14 to C-14 in the first place. If we extrapolate backwards in time with the proper equations, we find that the earlier the historical period, the less C-14 the atmosphere had.
When dating wood there is no such problem because wood gets its carbon straight from the air, complete with a full dose of C-14.
The creationists who quote Kieth and Anderson never tell you this, however.
If we extrapolate as far back as ten thousand years ago, we find the atmosphere would not have had any C-14 in it at all.
If they are right, this means all C-14 ages greater than two or three thousand years need to be lowered drastically and that the earth can be no older than ten thousand years. Answer: Yes, Cook is right that C-14 is forming today faster than it's decaying.
As a result it is always undergoing natural radioactive decay while the abundances of the other isotopes are unchanged.