The creationist argument against radiocarbon dating: why do so many ancient fossils test young according to carbon dating?

Craig McClarren
2 min readApr 1, 2021
Petrified Forest National Park, credit: https://utahsadventurefamily.com/petrified-forest-national-park/

It’s a common argument made by creationists refuting radioisotope dating. There are dozens, perhaps hundreds, of examples of fossils that are millions of years old, even a hundred million years old, that radiocarbon dating shows are only a few thousand years old? How does a geologist explain that?

Our answer: because you can’t radiocarbon date fossils. If I had a nickel for every time I saw a question based on a fundamental misunderstanding of radiometric dating, I’d have… a whole goddamned lot of nickels.

Here’s the short version of the answer: carbon dating measures the ratio of radiogenic carbon, C-14 to C-12, in organic material.

Fossilization is the process by which organic material is replaced with inorganic minerals.

The very act of fossilization invalidates carbon dating by destroying and flushing out the organic material that you’re interested in dating.

Happily for us geologists, there are ample alternative radiometric and relative dating methods that are suitable to age-dating fossils. There are numerous sources of potential error that we’re aware of in every dating method and we correct for those and only use a dating technique that’s appropriate to the situation. Radiocarbon is not appropriate for use on fossils or in materials more than a few tens of thousands of years old.

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Craig McClarren

Geologist, a lover of all science, father of a young child, published writer on Forbes and Mental Floss