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Religious Tolerance logo

Carbon-14 Dating: all viewpoints

Religious implications of
data derived from C-14 testing

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Religious implications:

The accuracy and reproducibility of the C-14 technique is accepted by essentially all scientists, and by much of the public. Reactions to this dating technique by devout believers differ:

bullet For most religious liberals in the Jewish, Christian, Muslim and other faiths, C-14 dating was a very welcome development. It enables archaeologists, theologians, historians, etc. to date accurately materials from biblical times. This sheds light on the Hebrew people and the accuracy of the Bible. It also allows scientists to date ancient manuscripts like the Nag Hammadi Library, the Dead Sea scrolls, the Gnostic gospels, etc.

bullet For the majority of religious conservatives who are also new-earth creationists, C-14 dating is considered a threat to their faith. It conflicts with the Bible in many areas.

C-14 testing directly contradicts a number of stories in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament). Some of the most obvious from the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) are:

bullet The Genesis creation story/stories: C-14 measurements have dated ancient objects at up to 50,000 years of age -- the limit of the measuring technique. Similar radiometric measurements using elements other than carbon have generated numbers in the many billions of years. Ten millennia is the maximum limit that new-earth creationists believe could have occurred between the creation of the Heavens, the Earth and the first humans until today.

bullet The story of Noah: C-14 testing demonstrates that there was no world-wide flood that destroyed all existing civilizations. Archeologists have been able to excavate many sites, gradually working down through many layers of occupation, while dating material from each level using C-14 analysis. The lower levels of many sites have been dated to before the "flood," while higher levels have been dated after the "flood." Yet there was no massive dislocation and sedimentary layer in the middle which would have been obvious if a world-wide flood had occurred.

bullet The story of the Tower of Babel: Archeologists have been able to piece together evidence of the history of societies in such diverse areas as China, Egypt, North America, South America, etc. It shows that humanity was not nearly wiped out circa 2348 BCE. 8 The human race was not reduced to eight individuals on Mount Ararat who then gradually repopulated the world. Life actually continued as normal in various cultures throughout the world during that era.

bullet The story of the Exodus: There is no evidence of a large population of Hebrews in Egypt prior to the Exodus. Also, there was no massive movement of people in the Sinai Peninsula lasting four decades circa 1491 BCE. 8

bullet The story of the Canaanite genocide: There was no genocide at Canaan by Joshua as described in the book of Joshua. One indicator of this is that C-14 analysis of materials from the many levels of the city of Jericho show that the city was abandoned for centuries before and after the time of Joshua. Carbon-14 dated evidence shows that the Hebrews actually developed as a sub-culture of the Canaanites within Canaan.

bullet Warfare with the Philistines: Wars between the Hebrews and Philistines are described in the Bible as occurring long before C-14 dating shows that the latter arrived in ancient Israel.

bullet Warfare with the Egyptians: There are no accounts in the Bible of interactions with Egypt, who, according to C-14 evidence, controlled in the land of ancient Israel for many centuries during biblical times, including the time of the Exodus.

Since most of the new-earth creationists believe in inspiration by God of the authors of the Bible and the inerrancy of the biblical text, they must reject the validity of C-14 dating, and thus disallow any results obtained by that technique.

They must also reject similar radiometric measurements using such elements as Potassium and Argon. These measurements use the same basic technique as C-14 dating, but employ different isotopes.  Potassium in the form of 40K is unstable and decays to the stable Argon isotope 40Ar with a half life of about 1.3 billion years. 9,10 Scientists have reached a consensus that such measurements can accurately date rocks that are many billion years of age. They have reached a consensus that the world coalesced approximately 4.5 billion years ago.

References used:

  1. Radiocarbon WEBinfo site, at:
  2. Arnold and Libby, "Age determinations by radiocarbon content: Checks with samples of known age" Science (1949).
  3. Tom Gidwitz, "Telling Time. By reading the rings of pines as old as the earliest pharaohs, Henry Michael has changed the way we look at the past," Archaeology, 2001-MAR/APR. Online at: The quotation is taken from the online version.
  4. Living snails were C14 dated at 2,300 and 27,000 years old,", at:
  5. "Jim", "How does carbon dating work?", Ask Yahoo at:
  6. "How accurate are Carbon 14 and other radioactive dating methods?," at:
  7. Christopher L. C. E. Witcombe, "Women in Prehistory : The Venus of Willendorf," Sweet Briar College, at:
  8. Dates of biblical events are taken from the Schofield Reference Bible which many new-earth creationists believe contains accurate dating.
  9. "Geological Time," Evolution for Teaching, at:
  10. "Chronological Methods 9 - Potassium-Argon Dating," University of California, at:
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Copyright © 2005 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2005-FEB-08
Latest update: 2011-NOV-21
Author: B.A. Robinson
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