Imagine a large swimming pool into which one drop of red ink falls each year.
The water dilutes the ink so much that even after a few thousand years very little pinkness can be seen in the pool.
In the presentation speech for the 1960 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, one scientist described the work by honoree Willard Libby with these words: “Seldom has a single discovery in chemistry had such an impact on the thinking of so many fields of human endeavour.
Seldom has a single discovery generated such wide public interest.” Libby’s research demonstrated the usefulness of carbon-14 in dating samples thousands of years old.
The question should be whether or not carbon-14 can be used to date any artifacts at all? There are a few categories of artifacts that can be dated using carbon-14; however, they cannot be more 50,000 years old.
Therefore, today the degree of pinkness in the bathtub’s water is not changing.
In this analogy, the red ink represents carbon-14 that forms in the upper atmosphere at the rate of 21 pounds per year and spreads throughout the biosphere.
Though radiocarbon dating clearly enjoys “wide public interest,” it also generates much confusion and discord among Christians, which leads to an obvious question: is Libby’s celebrated work a reliable technique for dating ancient objects?
The short answer is a resounding YES and here’s why.