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A freshly killed seal was C14 dated at 1300 years old (Talk.Origins)

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Response Article
This article (A freshly killed seal was C14 dated at 1300 years old (Talk.Origins)) is a response to a rebuttal of a creationist claim published by Talk.Origins Archive under the title Index to Creationist Claims.


Claim CD011.4:

A freshly killed seal was carbon-14 dated at 1300 years old.

Source: Hovind, Kent, n.d. Doesn't carbon dating or potassium argon dating prove the Earth is millions of years old?


CreationWiki response: (Talk.Origins quotes in blue)

This claim derives from Wakefield (1971):
Radiocarbon analysis of specimens obtained from mummified seals in southern Victoria Land has yielded ages ranging from 615 to 4,600 years. However, Antarctica sea water has significantly lower carbon-14 activity than that accepted as the world standard. Therefore, radiocarbon dating of marine organisms yields apparent ages that are older than true ages, but by an unknown and possibly variable amount. Therefore, the several radiocarbon ages determined for the mummified seal carcasses cannot be accepted as correct. For example, the apparent radiocarbon age of the Lake Bonney seal known to have been dead no more than a few weeks was determined to be 615 +/- 100 years. A seal freshly killed at McMurdo had an apparent age of 1,300 years.
This is the well-known reservoir effect that occurs also with mollusks and other animals that live in the water. It happens when "old" carbon is introduced into the water. In the above case of the seal, old carbon dioxide is present within deep ocean bottom water that has been circulating through the ocean for thousands of years before upwelling along the Antarctic coast. The seals feed off of animals that live in a nutrient-rich upwelling zone. The water that is upwelling has been traveling along the bottom for a few thousand years before surfacing. The carbon dioxide in it came from the atmosphere before the water sank. Thus, the carbon in the sea water is a couple of thousand years "old" from when it was in the atmosphere, and its radiocarbon content reflects this time. Plants incorporate this "old" carbon in them as they grow. Animals eat the plants; seals eat the animals, and the "old" carbon from the bottom waters is passed through the food chain. As a result, the radiocarbon content reflects a mixture of old radiocarbon, which is thousands of years old, and contemporaneous radiocarbon from the atmosphere. The result is an apparent age that differs from the true age of the seal. The reservoir effect is well known by scientists, who work hard to understand the limitations of their tools. It is explained, for example, in Faure (1986) and Higham (n.d.). Contrary to creationist propaganda, limitations of a tool do not invalidate the tool.

While some creationists have misused this case, it is also clear that Talk Origins does not see its true significance. This strongly illustrates the importance of initial carbon-14 content. The fact is that these seals ingested carbon that had below normal levels of carbon-14 and thus carbon-14 dating produced an anomalously old date. The same effect would have been produced on a global scale if the Genesis Flood had been followed by a rapid increase in the carbon-14 ratio. Those organisms that lived before it reached normal levels, would be dated as older than they really are and in some cases those dates would be off by tens of thousands of years.

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