Originally Posted by Frayed Knot
Nice lead-up Davis, but it leaves me wanting the rest of the story. What was the source of the C14 that Baumgardner supposedly found? It sounds like the discussion between him and Kirk Bertsche pretty much came to a conclusion - what was the conclusion?
Ok, I’ll try to put some of the interesting details in place. The story is too long for a single post, so I will piece-meal it.
More of the deep background on this RATE project – Radiometric dating has long been one of the more consistent, and scientifically defensible, ways to show the earth is old. For that reason, the YEC community has an intense interest in showing any deficiency they can in such dating. For years there were threads floating in the YEC community that seemed to contradict old-earth radiometric dates, such as Gentry’s radiohaloes. The ICR decided that a concerted organized effort by technically qualified people on the YEC side might be able to document important flaws in radiometric dating. Thus RATE was conceived.
The carbon-14 study is just one aspect of the overall RATE effort. Other areas include radiohaloes, anomalous dates (such as old Grand Canyon strata overlying recent strata), etc. The RATE study was intensive enough that donations were solicited from the supporting community, to the tune of several million dollars. The RATE project involved a 3-year study to document the current state of radiometric dating issues, followed by a 5 year focused effort trying to see if significant problems in dating were being whitewashed by the scientific community.
Dr. John Baumgardner, a YEC with respectable academic and professional credentials headed up the C-14 work. An interesting side note is that Baumgardner’s regular job was at Los Alamos National Labs during the early RATE work. In about this period he co-authored several papers that were based on the premise that the earth was very old. (For example, this is in the abstract to one of his papers: “Thermally driven convection within the earth's mantle determines one of the longest time scales of our planet.” http://www.munich-geocenter.org/Memb...ationdetails/1
) John has been approached several times about his duplicity in being funded by ICR to show the earth is young at the same time he was authoring old-earth papers in the broader scientific community. As demanded by his situation, the best answer he can give is to waffle, and try to avoid pointedly offending whichever side he is currently answering to. When asked if he would contact the scientific journals that published his old-earth papers and clarify to them that he was a YEC, he declined.
Most of the carbon we commonly see (as graphite, ashes, diamond, etc.) has atoms composed of 6 protons and 6 neutrons, for an atomic weight of 12. About 1% of carbon atoms have an extra neutron, giving an atomic weight of 13. These two forms of carbon are not radioactive. A miniscule amount of atmospheric carbon is carbon-14, with 2 more neutrons than most carbon atoms. On average, half of the carbon-14 atoms will spontaneously emit an electron from their nuclei within 5700 years, changing the atoms to a stable form of nitrogen. Of the half that did not emit the electron, one-half will emit the electron in the following 5700 years (leaving ¼ of the carbon-14 atoms). Every 5700 years half of the remaining carbon-14 atoms “decay” into nitrogen. This is called the half-life. Ten half-lives would take 57,000 years, and if we divide the original sample in half 10 times, one for each half-life, we find that about one of every thousand original carbon-14 atoms has not yet decayed.
I specifically specified “atmospheric carbon” in the paragraph above, because the vast majority of carbon-14 is formed in the high atmosphere, on the edges of space. There high-energy cosmic rays cause nuclear changes which (details omitted) result in some nitrogen atoms losing a proton and gaining a neutron – yielding carbon-14 atoms. These carbon-14 atoms mix into the atmosphere and act almost identical to normal carbon as far as bonding to other atoms. Most importantly, they end up as the carbon atom in carbon dioxide molecules, which are then taken in by plants as part of photosynthesis, and from there pass on into the food chain.
The ratio of normal carbon atoms to carbon-14 atoms in the atmosphere is (roughly) constant, with the rate at which new carbon-14 is generated being offset by the rate at which it decays. As long as plants are alive and taking using atmospheric carbon dioxide in photosynthesis, and as long as animals eat plants (or other animals which eat plants) they are continuously replenishing their supply of carbon, including the smidgeon of c-14. But once the intake of carbon ceases (at the death of the plant or animal), there is effectively no replenishment of the carbon-14 atoms in that organism. Coal and oil, being really just biological material that has been long dead, once had about the same ratio of carbon-14 to regular carbon that was present in that ancient atmosphere. By measuring how much of that carbon-14 is left, we can determine how long (how many half-lives) it has been since the coal or oil was “alive”.
The Missing Cliff
I am going to point out what I see as weaknesses in the YEC RATE work. For reference I will be referring to the C-14 half-life figure at http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/outreac...life_graph.jpg
The YEC position is that creation occurred probably less than 10,000 years ago. That is about 1.5 carbon-14 half-lives, which is pretty recent for c-14 dating. There are myriads of C-14 dates that have been confirmed by other dating methods up to about 6000 years ago. Any form of biological material from 6000 years ago should still have almost 50% of its c-14 intact. There should be no c-14 dates that reach back beyond creation week. Plotting all the c-14 dates on a c-14 half-life chart, when we get back to creation week, the detectable c-14 on the chart should precipitously drop to zero.
According to mainstream science, that doesn’t happen. There are lots of c-14 dates reaching back 10,000, 20,000, and up to almost 50,000 years, all sitting comfortably in place where expected on the chart.
RATE’s C-14 View
Initially, the C-14 RATE study group looked at a number of already existing scientific papers that told how much C-14 had been found in coal and oil and such. Then the C-14 ground within RATE actually obtained some samples themselves and had them C-14 dated. Based on what they saw in extant literature, plus what they saw in the C-14 tests they had done, they concluded that indeed science had been sweeping a serious problem under the rug.
Specifically, RATE concluded that there was an unaccounted for level of C-14 in almost every sample tested, both by them, and as reported in the literature. They concluded that this C-14 could only be due to the fact that the creation was recent, and no matter whether it was coal, or oil, or diamonds, that part of the C-14 mixed in with the normal carbon had not had time to all decay.
Christian scientist vs “Christian” scientist
The thread at TheologyWeb I alluded to is available here http://www.theologyweb.com/campus/sh...nd-Radiocarbon
. It opens with a modest post by Kirk Bertsche in which he critiques the major shortcomings he sees in the RATE C-14 work. It is followed by a few mostly old-earthers patting Kirk on the back.
Surprisingly John Baumgardner joins with post #10. This is a long post, and it appears John is taking the tact that he is going to decisively stomp on this upstart Bertsche who questions his work. Note the tone that John elects to employ in this opening salvo. He levies the charge that the C-14 dating community has long known of the excess C-14 issue, and asks, “how does the radiocarbon community deal with this state of affairs?” He says this “cries out for explanation “, but the scientists “have avoided publicizing the problem to outsiders”, they have chosen to “keep this state of affair to themselves”, they “act as if the issue does not exist”, and they have “adopted some special terminology that prevents most outsiders from realizing the problem exists”. He says they “keep this dilemma under largely wraps” by procedural subterfuges, which alleviates them from “the awkward difficulty of explaining to a customer why a coal sample, for instance, has a non-zero level of 14C.”
When speaking specifically of this upstart Bertsche, I will let John’s own words carry the message:
Although Bertsche styles himself as an “accelerator physicist, formerly at a leading radiocarbon AMS laboratory, as far as radiocarbon measurement procedures and issues are concerned, he is a novice.
If he were truly an insider, he would be fully aware
If Bertsche could understand the very papers to which he refers
his first claim … is unsustainable
the issues he is failing to grasp
The AMS insiders understand the lingo. Bertsche apparently does not.
Because of his shallow grasp of the issues
Bertsche throws out a number of ‘red-herrings’.
Bertsche fails to point out the very basic reality
Bertsche also makes a ‘red-herring’ of
he displays a serious lack of familiarity with the terms used
Bertsche further reveals the shallowness of his understanding of AMS procedures and terminology
Just why he uses the term ‘graphitization’ in the peculiar manner he does is a mystery.
Bertsche is simply in fantasy land when…
This is absurd
Bertsche’s statement that … is flatly unsupportable
Bertsche produces still more ‘red-herrings’ to create confusion about the RATE 14C measurements
incredibly, Bertsche proposes microbial growth
Just what does Bertsche imagine
Talk about grasping for straws.
Bertsche resorts to speculating
To me that smacks of a deliberate distortion
Just why does Bertsche choose … to engage in this sort of distortion?
Bertsche is undermining his earlier arguments
So which is it? Bertsche cannot have it both ways
Bertsche seeks to dismiss
It is therefore understandable why Bertsche comes away with an incorrect conclusion
he is not the expert in 14C dating that he makes himself out to be
Bertsche fails to make his case
This is how Dr. John Baumgardner responds to critiques. In later posts, when he realizes his opponent is not the patsy he had hoped, he lessens the rhetoric, but still gets in a slap or two.
In contrast, in his posts Kirk consistently exemplified personal courtesy, and stuck pretty strictly to the facts. What is the measure of a Christian?
If I find time, I will turn more to the details of the technical issues they were disputing in a later post. Got other things to do now.