Science has developed a method of dating which in many cases can determine how long ago a plant or animal lived. This method is known as carbon-14 dating and is based on the radioactive decay of this isotope.

Carbon is vital to all life on earth. All living systems on earth utilize large amounts of the element carbon in their life processes. Carbon is the element which primarily makes up coal, charcoal, pencil leads, lamp-black, and many other familiar substances. When food is burned in a pot, the hard, black material remaining is primarily the carbon which the food contained.

There are three isotopes or forms of carbon which occur naturally on earth. These are carbon-12, carbon-13, and carbon-14. Carbon-12 and carbon-13 are stable, non-radioactive isotopes, and they do not decay. Carbon-14, however, is radioactive, and over a period of time each carbon-14 atom emits a beta particle (electron) and becomes a stable isotope of nitrogen.

If an amount of carbon-14 were placed in a jar and put on a shelf, 5,730 years later only half of it would remain. This number, 5,730, is termed the half-life in years of carbon-14. If sometime in the past, a jar containing one pound of carbon-14 had been placed on a shelf and had not been bothered since then, knowing that the jar originally contained one pound, we could measure the amount remaining in the jar and determine fairly accurately how long it had been there.

Carbon-14 is produced in the earth’s atmosphere by atomic radiation from the sun. All life forms ingest carbon-14 into their living systems by eating and breathing. Carbon-14, therefore, permeates all living tissue with the same percentage of total carbon that is found in the atmosphere.

Approximately 99% of the carbon in the world today is carbon-12. About one percent is carbon-13, and only traces of carbon-14 exist. Because carbon-14 is radioactive and gives off atomic radiation, the tiny amounts in organic material are sufficient to measure the carbon-14 remaining after a fossilized plant or animal has been dead for many years, thereby allowing a determination of the approximate date of death.

Based on carbon-14 dating, scientists have theorized that the world is billions of years old. When the amount of carbon-14 remaining in dinosaur bones is measured, an extremely tiny amount is found, indicating apparently that these prehistoric animals lived millions of years ago.

These findings, however, do not agree with the Bible, for the Bible indicates that the world is only about 6,000 years old. The technique of using carbon-14 for dating is sound only if the original amount of carbon-14 is known. Thus, in using carbon-14 to date ancient life, scientists assume that the amount of carbon-14 on earth has always been what it is today. The Bible indicates, however, that this assumption is not correct and explains why it is not correct.

Genesis 1:6-8 describes the second day of creation week: “And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.”

Notice that the firmament divided the waters. Some of the water was above the firmament, and some of the water was below the firmament.

The firmament is the atmosphere surrounding the planet earth. Genesis 1:20 shows this by stating that God made the birds to fly in the firmament: “And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.” This verse in the New International Version says, “And God said, ‘Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky.’” Thus, we see that the firmament is the expanse of the sky, which separates the water from the water. Genesis 1:6-8 says that part of the water was above this firmament and part of the water was below the firmament.

Notice that these verses tell us that the water is above the firmament, and not in the firmament. What water is in the firmament is really particles of water from the earth, from under the firmament, temporarily suspended during the water cycle of evaporation and rain. These particles occur only in the lower part of the firmament, the upper parts being free of water vapor.

Much of the water which flooded the earth during the time of Noah came from that which was above the firmament. The water above the firmament was in orbit around the earth and provided a very effective radioactive shield which enveloped the earth and protected the earth’s atmosphere from the atomic radiation from the sun. Since atomic radiation from the sun was not reaching the earth, carbon-14 was virtually nonexistent in the atmosphere.

Carbon-14 dating, therefore, is an accurate method only for dating material which lived after the flood. This method cannot be used accurately to date organic material before the flood because we do not know how much carbon-14 ancient life contained.

This situation is analogous to the example of our jar containing one pound of carbon-14. If the jar had been put on the shelf containing only a fraction of an ounce of carbon-14 and we were told that it originally contained one pound, our dating method would determine that the jar had been there for millions of years.

As always, the Bible states the situation correctly when it indicates that the earth is about 6,000 years old. No evidence has ever been found which, when correctly interpreted, shows the Bible to be in error.