How Accurate is Carbon Dating? Labmate Online
Given this, I see no reason why radio-carbon dating cannot be used for in any radio-carbon age from about that time, even with very precise. A common misconception about radiocarbon dating is that it gives a precise before calibration, came back with an error bar of +/- about 60 radiocarbon years. There are two interrelated concepts with any form of radiometric dating: accuracy and precision. Accuracy refers to how close the assessed age.
Because the radiocarbon to stable carbon ratio in the atmosphere has fluctuated over time, there are "wiggles" in the calibration curve. Thus it is possible in some instances for two samples from a few decades apart to have the same radiocarbon concentration today, and hence the same apparent radiocarbon age.Radiometric dating practice
This happens whenever there is a wiggle in the curve at the time the samples died. This, in fact, is the most significant factor contributing to loss of precision in radiocarbon dates today. However, this contribution is usually only a few decades.
How precise is radiocarbon dating?
Radiocarbon and Biblical Chronology Radiocarbon dates are certainly not precise to within a year or two, but they are generally precise to within a few hundred years or better. This means radiocarbon's precision is generally sufficient to choose between alternate chronologies which differ by a hundred years or more.
Thus radiocarbon serves biblical chronology mainly by helping to eliminate large-scale biblical chronology errors arising out of misinterpretation of the biblical text or textual corruption.
For a good example of the role radiocarbon plays in biblical chronology see Is Bryant Wood's chronology of Jericho valid? Once such large-scale errors have been eliminated the precision of biblical chronology rivals that of dendrochronology. However, in the s, the growth rate was found to be significantly higher than the decay rate; almost a third in fact. They attempted to account for this by setting as a standard year for the ratio of C to C, and measuring subsequent findings against that.
In short, the answer is… sometimes. Sometimes carbon dating will agree with other evolutionary methods of age estimation, which is great. Most concerning, though, is when the carbon dating directly opposes or contradicts other estimates. At this point, the carbon dating data is simply disregarded.
It has been summed up most succinctly in the words of American neuroscience Professor Bruce Brew: If it does not entirely contradict them, we put it in a footnote. And if it is completely out of date, we just drop it. For example, recently science teams at the British Antarctic Survey and Reading University unearthed the discovery that samples of moss could be brought back to life after being frozen in ice.
That carbon dating deemed the moss to have been frozen for over 1, years. Now, if this carbon dating agrees with other evolutionary methods of determining age, the team could have a real discovery on their hands.
Unfortunately, tree ring dating is itself not entirely reliable, especially the "long chronology" employed to calibrate the carbon dating method. The result is that carbon dating is accurate for only a few thousand years. Anything beyond that is questionable. This fact is born out in how carbon dating results are used by scientists in the scientific literature.
Many scientists will use carbon dating test results to back up their position if the results agree with their preconceived theories. But if the carbon dating results actually conflict with their ideas, they aren't too concerned. It is for specimens which only date back a few thousand years.
Anything beyond that is problematic and highly doubtful.