How to fool carbon 14 dating
This article reviews the theoretical basis for expecting the presence of carbon-14 in Pliocene to Cambrian carbon from certain creationist viewpoints, and for expecting its absence from a viewpoint proposing a long age of life on Earth. Several conclusions emerge: 1) There is measurable carbon-14 in material that should be "dead" according to standard evolutionary theory; 2) machine error can be eliminated as an explanation for this carbon-14 on experimental grounds; 3) nuclear synthesis of this carbon-14 in situ can be eliminated on theoretical grounds; 4) contamination of fossil material in situ is unlikely but theoretically possible, and is a testable hypothesis; 5) contamination during sample preparation is a significant problem but theoretically soluble; 6) residual activity is most likely indicated by the present data, and if correct, would eliminate an age greater than approximately 100,000 years for life on Earth; and 7) additional experimental evidence cannot eliminate either a short or a long age of life on Earth, but can provide evidence tending to discriminate between the two.
Explanations of measured radiocarbon in an old sample that are consistent with long-age theories might include carbon-14 created there by nuclear synthesis, carbon-14 from elsewhere contaminating the sample (either in the ground or during sample preparation), or machine error (the measuring device indicating the presence of carbon-14 in the sample when in fact there is none).
If one assumes that at creation there was no carbon-14 in the biosphere, and that the Flood was 1656 years after creation (the shortest reasonable time), then at the time of the Flood carbon-14 would have built up in the biosphere to 18% of its equilibrium value, based on a constant production rate for carbon-14.
In addition, if the magnetic field was at maximum reasonable strength, the production of carbon-14 would have been reduced by approximately 75% (Brown 1979).
These possible sources of error will be discussed below.
MOST SHORT-AGE CONSTANT-DECAY MODELS PREDICT A SMALL AMOUNT OF CARBON-14 (0.6 TO 0.005 PMC) IN GEOLOGICALLY OLD SAMPLES The predictions of the second category of theories, which we shall call short-age constant-decay theories, are not as clear-cut.
In fact, unless there are some constraints on how much radiometric constants may vary, the third category of theories cannot make any predictions whatever.