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Carbon dating and equilibrium

19 September 2012, 14:45

This article is to answer a person called ckrums, for a comment made by him or her on  September 18, 2012 at 16:40, in the article ‘We are God’ by Roux de Boy.

In the comments, ckrums wrote:

Please explain why the earth has not reached carbon equilibrium. The founder, Dr Lilly knew that it took about 30 000 years for equilibrium to be reached, which is why he developed carbon dating because he originally believed in evolution, so he assumed equilibrium had been reached...

Note that ckrums doesn’t even get the name of the scientist most responsible for carbon dating right. The name is Dr Willard Libby.

Dr Libby was a chemist who got the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1960 for leading the team responsible for the development of carbon dating

Dr Willard Libby has an extensive publication list, but nowhere does he even mention “30 000 years for equilibrium”.

This false argument was popularized by creationist and Hydraulic Engineer, Henry Morris , who used some calculations done in 1968 by Melvin Cook to get the 10,000-year figure. In 1968 another creationist, Robert L. Whitelaw, using a greater ratio of carbon-14 production to decay, concluded that only 5000 years passed since carbon-14 started forming in the atmosphere!

None of this was ever published in any peer-reviewed scientific journal. Just in religious tracts. The 30 000 year number is thus just bogus. The story told Dr Libby new about it, is  not true at all.

Dr Libby never even had a number of 30 000 years.

ckrums also wrote:

….but then he discovered that it hasn't reached equilibrium and it still hasn't...which is one of MANY problems for the 3.5 billion year time tag on the earth...but proves that carbon dating cannot work.

Seeing that carbon dating, till recently, could only be used to accurately date certain organic material to around  50 000 years maximum, this can be considered an untruth as well. With modern technology this can be extended to 70 000 years.  Maximum. Any age older than that, obtained by carbon dating, is inaccurate.

Thus, carbon dating can’t be used for anything older than 70 000 years. Talking about billions of years and carbon dating in the same sentence really is ridiculous. Yet, many creationists keep on doing it.

Creationists tend to tell untruths. These untruths are very popular with people without the specialised knowledge about the subject, but they are still untruths.


Morris, Henry M. 1974a. "The Young Earth" Institute for Creation Research, Impact series, No.17

Libby, Willard F., Radiocarbon dating, 2d ed., University of Chicago Press, 1955.

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