What happens if you date dinosaur bones using the carbon-14 method?

Dinosaur bones are supposed to be around 65 million years old, right? But what happens if you date them using carbon-14 dating, which is theoretically useful for dating organic materials that are much younger, having died up to 50,000 years ago? This should be a no-brainer, right?

Dinosaurs Carbon-14 Dating

The theory predicts that the test results should say that the bones are at least 50,000 years old. Carbon-14 dating works by measuring the amount of carbon-14 interspersed with regular carbon-12 in a sample of organic matter.

(Let’s be clear: evolutionists don’t rely on carbon-14 to support their theories about an old earth. They rely on different methods.)

Carbon-14 forms in the upper atmosphere when cosmic rays bounce into nitrogen atoms and dislodge some of their protons. The result is a carbon-14 atom. Plants absorb the carbon-14 in the air through the standard photosynthesis process. Animals eat the plants. People eat plants and animals. Consequently, the carbon-14 finds its way into our body and builds up in our bones over time.

When a creature dies, it stops taking in new carbon-14. Carbon-14 is radioactive and decays with time. Therefore, after enough time has passed, all of the carbon-14 atoms in a sample will have decayed into other elements and there will be no traces of the element left.

The half-life of carbon-14 is 5,730 years, which means it takes that long for half of any initial amount amount of carbon-14 to decay.


But just like other methods of radiometric dating, scientists can only measure the initial amount of carbon-14 in animals that die today, so they have to make guesses about the initial amounts in animals that

1) died in the past or

2) that they didn’t see die and

3) have no eye-witness accounts about when they died.

They can measure the ratios of carbon-14 to carbon-12 in the atmosphere today. They can measure the ratios of the elements in creatures that have died recently. They can correlate the values.

If they assume that the ratios in the past were the same as they are today, then they can estimate how long ago those creatures died. If the ratios are in equilibrium, then this would be a safe assumption.

They can only solve their equations if they assume that the production rate of carbon-14 to carbon-12 in the upper atmosphere is constant. In order for the two to be produced in equilibrium, the atmosphere would have to have been stable for 50,000 years or more.

Evolutionists assume this to be true. As W.F. Libby, who discovered the method, wrote:

“Having established the world-wide uniformity of the radiocarbon assay at the present time, it seems a logical assumption that this would have been true in ancient times.” [Science Magazine, Vol. 109, Pg. 227. March 4, 1949]

But if there were any kind of recent catastrophe — such as a global flood, for example — the atmospheric ratios of the two carbon atoms would probably have changed over time, and would still be changing even now. (In fact, we know the ratios are changing now, and have been over time.)


Since modern scientists “know” dinosaurs died millions of years ago, they don’t use carbon-14 dating methods on dinosaur bones. But if they did, there should be no carbon-14 left in their bones to measure if their theory that the bones are millions of years old and their assumptions about carbon-14 ratios being in equilibrium are correct.

But some scientists have applied carbon-14 dating to dinosaur bones. Their results shouldn’t be surprising to Christians: they contain carbon-14.

If we apply the standard assumptions that scientists typically apply when using carbon-14 dating, we come up with these simple results: the dinosaur bones are under 50,000 years old.

If this is not correct, it could mean the dating method is flawed because the assumptions are wrong, and all dates gathered using the method are suspect. It could also mean the bone specimens were contaminated (which is highly unlikely).


But if there is no contamination, the results heavily imply that the theory that dinosaurs died 65 million years ago is incorrect.

In this particular case, the dinosaurs were dated to between 10,000 and 25,000 years old. In the 1970’s, similar ages were gathered for other materials presumed to be very old, such as coal and sabre-toothed tiger remains.

Note that the results don’t really tell us anything except that there is some quantity of carbon-14 in the bones.

Scientists who are Christians who adhere to a six-day creation would recognize that it’s expected that there would be some carbon-14 in the bones because not enough time has passed for all of it to decay (since the age of the earth is less than 2 half-lives of carbon-14).

But since the age predicted by the method is wrong (i.e. greater than 6000 years), then that would mean that the assumptions used are invalid — further research and data is needed to refine the method.

It’s important to recognize this main idea: both Christians and evolutionists disagree with the results of the tests on dinosaur bones. But the differences arise because of the underlying presuppositions about the past of the two groups.

Christians believe the history of the earth to be as stated in Genesis which is God’s direct revelation to us. Evolutionists “know” the dates are wrong because they believe the earth is much, much older than what God tells us it is.


The museum curator from whose museum the dinosaur bone samples were taken was outraged. “Carbon dating dinosaur bones is ludicrous, and the fact they yielded numbers is meaningless.”

Another remark noted in the article was “If a scientist believes the bones are millions of years older, the usual procedure is to date the age of the surrounding rock strata using potassium argon dating, all of which measure the amount of decay of those elements.”

You have to know how old the sample is before you test it, you see. Otherwise your results are wrong.

An objective scientist would explore the discrepancies produced by the dating methods. What’s at stake? If dinosaur bones are not 65 million years old, then this poses serious problems to the entire modern science guild who has built its house upon the sandy shores of evolution theory. Grant money is at stake. Jobs and careers are at stake.

Scientists who believe the creation account of Genesis, Chapter 1 are still scientists even if their conclusions differ from the “majority” opinion. Their conclusions differ because their bounding conditions and assumptions about the past differ. Antichristian scientists are not neutral, as they’d have you believe. They are hostile, as the quotes above demonstrate.


Their personal god may be Mammon, or job security. They have vested interests in one or both of those things.

They also have a different, but significant vested interest: their fear of a personal God who will judge them into eternity. They must prove that He is not real.

As a side-note, it’s often remarked that carbon-14 dating is “corrected” using tree-ring dating, which makes it accurate out to many tens of thousands of years.

To understand what it means to “correct” the carbon-14 age using tree-ring methods, take a look at this presentation located on The Emperor Has No Clothes, a site by practicing medical doctor Sean Pitman.

Another common “explanation” — other than contamination — though it’s really just a theory, is that the carbon-14 that exists in the bones was produced by millions of years of uranium and thorium decaying underground and injecting the bones with carbon-14 isotopes produced during the decay process.

These “explanations” rest on the same basic faith-based assumption as carbon-14 dating: the earth is very, very, very old.


3 responses to “What happens if you date dinosaur bones using the carbon-14 method?

  1. Pingback: Soft tissues in dinosaur bones: a closer look at the philosophical conflicts | Rebuild America's Biblical Worldview

  2. Pingback: Is there carbon 14 in dinosaur bones? | Rebuild America's Biblical Worldview

  3. Pingback: Claims of evidence of Noah’s flood pop up in the mainstream media | Rebuild America's Biblical Worldview

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