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Ancient coal and oil are C14 dated as only 50,000 years old (Talk.Origins)

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Response Article
This article (Ancient coal and oil are C14 dated as only 50,000 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.
Previous claim: CD011.5 Next claim: CD012

Claim CD011.6:

Coal and oil are supposedly millions of years old. Effectively all of the carbon-14 in a sample would have decayed in that time. But carbon-14 still exists in coal, implying an age of only about 50,000 years.


  • Baumgardner, John, 2003. Carbon dating undercuts evolution's long ages. Impact #364 (Oct.),
  • Baumgardner, J. R., D. R. Humphreys, A. A. Snelling, and S. A. Austin, 2003. Measurable 14C in fossilized organic materials: Confirming the young earth creation/Flood model. in Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Creationism, R. E. Walsh, ed., Pittsburgh, PA: Creation Science Fellowship, pp. 127-142.

CreationWiki response:

Please take note that Talk.Origins omits one important reference from their sources for this claim.

JR Baumgardner, AA Snelling, DR Humphreys, and SA Austin. "The enigma of the ubiquity of 14 C in organic samples older than 100 ka". Eos Trans. AGU, 84(46), Fall Meet. Suppl., Abstract xxxxx-xx, 2003

(Talk.Origins quotes in blue)

1. New 14C is formed from background radiation, such as radioactivity in the surrounding rocks. In some cases, 14C from the atmosphere can contaminate a sample. A few processes that can add "modern" 14C to coal are:

  • Sulfur bacteria, which commonly grow in coal.
  • Secondary carbonates from groundwater that form on fracture surfaces.
  • Whewellite, a carbon-containing mineral, that often forms as coal weathers.

Minute amounts of contamination from these sources can cause apparent ages around 50,000 years, which is near the limit of the maximum age that carbon dating can measure.

However according to the cited sources the results include corrections for all known sources of contamination. So contrary to Talk.Origins' claim, creation scientists do consider contamination in these studies. They are clearly not the dimwits that Talk.Origins would have their reader believe.

Also,Baumgardner responded to these criticisms on a AiG feedback article.[1]


  1. Feedback: Are the RATE Results Caused by Contamination? by Dr. John Baumgardner. 30 Nov 2007. Accessed 16 Mar. 2013

Additional references