C14 Dating of Dinosaur Bones

Jean De Pontcharra, a Phd in Physics, has a presentation for creationist conferences entitled “Is Radiocarbon dating reliable?”

De Pontcharra and a colleague got hold of some dinosaur bones and decided to date them with C14. This was reported at Uncommon Descent. Could someone who knows something about science spot the error? Bueller? Cordova?

So why did Pontcharra do what he did? Why has this been reported in various places on the web as evidence of a young Earth?

On a charitable interpretation, the best we can say about this story is that ID has always been plagued by gross incompetence.

An uncomplicated mind might conclude that the Intelligent Design movement is all about creationist propaganda for the uneducated and uninquisitive.

16 Replies to “C14 Dating of Dinosaur Bones”

  1. Allan Miller
    Ignored
    says:

    Could someone who knows something about science spot the error? Bueller? Cordova?

    Sal posted it (as News), so probly not!

  2. JonF
    Ignored
    says:

    Well, other than the error of trying to date dinosaur bones with 14C, I don’t see one. The results are barely within the window where 14C is valid. More info is needed; sample selection, sample prep, instrument preparation,…

  3. petrushka
    Ignored
    says:

    I haven’t peeked at UD, but isn’t mineralization a kind of contamination?

  4. llanitedave llanitedave
    Ignored
    says:

    I won’t be giving UD any clicks, so I don’t know the details, but from a dating standpoint, yes mineralization is contamination. On the other hand dinosaur bones are commonly nearly completely replaced, with maybe only some of the original calcium remaining. Any recent carbon that has entered is likely to have replaced previous replacement carbon — so your contamination is contaminated.

  5. petrushka
    Ignored
    says:

    I would think the fact that the original material has been replaced would be a clue.

  6. Peter L
    Ignored
    says:

    I usually say in this context that “carbon-14 decays to background levels, not zero.” Given low-level contamination, and the possibility of the creation of small amounts of new c14, I suspect that even a rock could produce a c14 date of <100,000 years, probably less.

  7. Allan Miller
    Ignored
    says:

    The dating still gives several tens of thousands of years, hardly succour to the die-hard YEC ***. Strange how anomalous dates cast the entire field of radiometric dating into doubt. Unless they confirm a suspicion, in which case they are bang on. All the rest are the anomalies.

    Sal links to an earlier post of his where he attempted to slay geology and palaeontology with one mighty swish of his tail …

    We have the conceptual notion of a geological “column”. The idea is that if you dig a hole, you are essentially traversing down a conceptual column that provides a recorded history of life. […]

    In such a column, older fossils are buried beneath younger fossils. Even supposing this is a reasonable interpretation,[…]

    What, you only accept this for the sake of argument … !

    He goes on to describe a doubtful-sounding discussion with a geologist who, by Sal’s account, was turned apoplectic by Sal’s penetrating quizzing. Fossilisation can’t happen, apparently, because things rot and are eaten while the sediment builds up at 0.46 mm a year around them … something about gradualism vs catastrophism. That’s physics, biology, chemistry, geology and paleaontology all sorted, then.

    *** [eta: I am aware this is still very unlikely to be a date for the carbon actually present in the living dinosaur’s body]

  8. davehooke
    Ignored
    says:

    Well that’s just it. What is the point of dating a fossil with only C14? You know in advance you can’t get an age in the millions of years, due to the method. If you understand the issues with radiocarbon dating, and De Pontcharra claims to, you know that background radiation can give you a positive result where little or no C14 is present.

    The bigger “error” is jumping on the result in isolation. Ignoring the convergence of evidence is either shocking ignorance or pure deceit.

  9. Mike Elzinga
    Ignored
    says:

    It must be homeopathic radiocarbon dating; diluted until nothing is left. But the “imprint” remains.

  10. JonF
    Ignored
    says:

    davehooke:
    Well that’s just it. What is the point of dating a fossil with only C14? You know in advance you can’t get an age in the millions of years, due to the method.

    If you are a YEC you don’t know that.

    I took a quick glance at the paper. They claim to have removed outer layers and taken samples from inner non-mineralized areas. FWIW.

  11. JetBlack JetBlack
    Ignored
    says:

    Mike Elzinga,

    in homeopathic radiocarbon dating, you should be able to run entire power plants from tiny scrapings of ancient radiocarbon.

  12. Lizzie
    Ignored
    says:

    JetBlack:
    Mike Elzinga,

    in homeopathic radiocarbon dating, you should be able to run entire power plants from tiny scrapings of ancient radiocarbon.

    And if you running short of scrapings, you just dilute them and get even more power!

    And once you have completely run out, you can blow up the solar system!

  13. petrushka
    Ignored
    says:

    I think homeopathic power might be the answer to global warming.

  14. llanitedave llanitedave
    Ignored
    says:

    No, just trace amounts of homeopathic heat will warm the planet intolerably.

  15. JetBlack JetBlack
    Ignored
    says:

    What is it with these people and their magic bullets? At the end of the day, a c14 date is an isolated data point from which it is extremely difficult, if not impossible to draw conclusions, and most certainly about claims this substantial. It completely ignores all the other thousands if not millions of data points, which do not fit with the model that he is proposing to explain this result.

  16. RBH
    Ignored
    says:

    Allan Miller wrote

    Fossilisation can’t happen, apparently, because things rot and are eaten while the sediment builds up at 0.46 mm a year around them … something about gradualism vs catastrophism.

    That argument about sedimentation rate goes back (at least!) to apologist Josh McDowell in Reasons Why Skeptics Should Consider Christianity, which is stuffed full of creationist nonsense. The error, of course, is obvious: An average is not a constant. Sal apparently makes the same error in his penetrating quizzing of a real geologist.

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