I heard several times from creationists that now, if scientists would examine the land in Hiroshima, it will tell them it is millions of years old all because of the atom bomb.

And because of that now we can't trust Scientific datings of the earth, universe, rocks, etc. because "god" or events like the biblical flood could have made the earth seem older.

I searched and couldn't find any information about this, can you guys help me?

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    Very related: skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/1438/…
    – Sklivvz
    Jun 2, 2012 at 20:35
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    @Sklivvz Those are great answers and related to the topic but it still doesn't touch the atom bomb/other events that in theory could have made the Dating wrong problem
    – Kristal
    Jun 2, 2012 at 21:14
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    Note that the position the "God made the Earth seem older." (also known as the Omphalos hypothesis) is unfalsifiable. Therefore, it isn't a scientific hypothesis, but a faith-based one, and off-topic. It also quickly degenerates in "Last Thursdayism" (ibid).
    – Oddthinking
    Jun 3, 2012 at 3:01
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    It's kinda funny because because the spike of 14C in the 50's and 60's due to nuclear testing forms a well-known landmark in the temporal 14C landscape. If you ask any scientist who works in radiocarbon, they'll tell you all about it - and then the creationists pretend they're the only ones to figure it out...
    – Tacroy
    Jun 4, 2012 at 19:16
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    I'd have thought that if you knew nothing about the fact that from 1945 onwards there were multiple nuclear explosions the higher radioactivity in an area could mislead you into thinking it was younger than it really was, not older. Radiodating works by measuring the radioactivity of an object (which decreases over time) against what theory predicts the radioactivity of an object should be if it was a particular age. Of course everybody who does radiodating is fully aware that nuclear bombs exist and can take them into account
    – GordonM
    Aug 17, 2018 at 8:47

3 Answers 3


In the comments, Gary Kindel, pointed out, "Just answer the question and stop worrying who is going to use to support a specific dating technique."

So the short answer is yes, radioactivity can and does affect radiometric dating techniques. This is a well established phenomenon and as such, there are many other dating methods that make up for this.

There are a lot of different radiometric dating methods, based on different elements (Uranium Lead, Potassium Argon, Uranium Thorium, Carbon, Chlorine-36, Luminescence, Samarium-neodymium, Rubidium Strontium and more.)

Creationists usually point to carbon dating, carbon 14 decay dating. Carbon dating, like other radiometric dating relies on a fairly constant decay over time. Since the creation of carbon 14 varies slightly due to things like volcano eruptions, a calibration curve can be used to adjust it. Results that use a calibration adjustment are called Calibrated or Cambridge Dates. These dates are usually expressed in regular calender dates. As apposed to Uncalibrated or Libby Dates, that use the BP (before present) date.


Carbon-14 is a radioactive isotope of carbon, with a half-life of 5,730 years,[23][24] which is very short compared with the above isotopes. In other radiometric dating methods, the heavy parent isotopes were produced by nucleosynthesis in supernovas, meaning that any parent isotope with a short half-life should be extinct by now. Carbon-14, though, is continuously created through collisions of neutrons generated by cosmic rays with nitrogen in the upper atmosphere and thus remains at a near-constant level on Earth. The carbon-14 ends up as a trace component in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2).

An organism acquires carbon during its lifetime. Plants acquire it through photosynthesis, and animals acquire it from consumption of plants and other animals. When an organism dies, it ceases to take in new carbon-14, and the existing isotope decays with a characteristic half-life (5730 years). The proportion of carbon-14 left when the remains of the organism are examined provides an indication of the time elapsed since its death. The carbon-14 dating limit lies around 58,000 to 62,000 years

The rate of creation of carbon-14 appears to be roughly constant, as cross-checks of carbon-14 dating with other dating methods show it gives consistent results. However, local eruptions of volcanoes or other events that give off large amounts of carbon dioxide can reduce local concentrations of carbon-14 and give inaccurate dates. The releases of carbon dioxide into the biosphere as a consequence of industrialization have also depressed the proportion of carbon-14 by a few percent; conversely, the amount of carbon-14 was increased by above-ground nuclear bomb tests that were conducted into the early 1960s. Also, an increase in the solar wind or the Earth's magnetic field above the current value would depress the amount of carbon-14 created in the atmosphere. These effects are corrected for by the calibration of the radiocarbon dating scale. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radiometric_dating#Radiocarbon_dating_method

Nuclear carbon dating is not the only test used to date fossils. There many other dating methods that are used to date things; one of witch is chemical properties of igneous rock formations. Others are thermoluminescence, amino acid, etc.

To answer your question, nuclear weapons testing brought about a reaction that simulated atmospheric production of carbon 14 in unnatural quantities. The huge thermal neutron flux produced by nuclear bombs reacted with nitrogen atoms present in the atmosphere to form carbon 14. The carbon 14 produced is what is known as bomb carbon or artificial radiocarbon. Nuclear weapons testing in the 1950s and 1960s have nearly doubled the atmospheric carbon 14 content as measured in around 1965.

The level of bomb carbon was about 100% above normal levels between 1963 and 1965. The level of bomb carbon in the northern hemisphere reached a peak in 1963, and in the southern hemisphere around 1965.

See this graph, and description below.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Radiocarbon_bomb_spike.svg

One of the main methods used to date fossils is by the strata they are found in. Some strata are dated absolutely via radiometric dating. These methods are sufficient to determine a great deal of stratigraphy.

Some fossils are seen to occur only in certain strata (like dinosaurs.) Such fossils can be used as index fossils. When these fossils exist, they can be used to determine the age of the strata, because the fossils show that the strata correspond to strata that have already been dated by other means.

For more information on radiometric dating, read Radiometric Dating and the Geological Time Scale, Circular Reasoning or Reliable Tools? By Andrew MacRae.

Given that the half-life of carbon-14 is 5730 years, one can calculate that 4 billion C-14 atoms will produce 1 decay per minute on the average. Converting the 4 billion atoms to grams (a nickel weighs 5 grams), we get 0.000000000000093 grams of carbon-14. Consequently, by tallying one click per minute on the Geiger counter, we can measure a whole lot further than 7 decimal places!

A 1-gram, fresh sample of carbon, containing the atmospheric concentration of one ten-billionth percent of carbon-14, will yield about 12 decays per minute. That figure follows directly from the mathematics and, as the atmospheric portion of carbon-14 given above is an approximation, is close enough to Dr. Hovind's present-day figure of 16 counts per minute per gram. Because of atomic bomb tests, the rate is slightly higher today, but the present rate would not apply to animals and plants which died before such tests. One book used a figure of about 13.5 decays per minute per gram for the pre-bomb rate. Consequently, a 64-gram sample of fresh carbon will still give about 7 clicks per minute after 40,000 years. Because of background radiation, that's about as far as one can normally go with this counting method. As noted above, Dr. Dalrymple would extend that to 50,000 years in special laboratories.

Once again, Dr. Hovind has relied on bad data. If you get your information from a creationist source, you'd better triple-check it! Errors get handed down in the creationist literature like the family jewels!

Dr. Hovind (R6): The shape of the curve of the line is based on too few real measurements to be reliable. R6. It's not clear to me what Dr. Hovind is talking about. If he is referring to the carbon-14 decay curve then he has demonstrated, once again, his ignorance of radiometric dating.

The decay curve is mathematically determined by the fact that every atom of carbon-14 in a sample has the same chance of decaying during each second of time. That much is predicted by quantum mechanics, which is possibly the greatest of our modern, scientific revolutions.

The random character of radioactive decay is a special case of the indeterminacy of quantum theory, as was pointed out in 1928 by George Gamow, Ronald Gurney and Edward Condon. They showed that a particle held inside the nucleus by a "potential barrier" may be able to "tunnel through" the barrier and emerge on the other side, since if the barrier is finite the wave function of the particle is not completely localized and there is a finite probability that the particle will be outside the nucleus.

(Brush, 1982, p.42)

Since we are dealing with millions of C-14 atoms in even the smallest samples, the amount of C-14 remaining with respect to time will be an excellent approximation of an exponential decay curve. Statistics assure us of that. Indeed, it would be absurd to speak of the half-life of a radioactive isotope if it did not have a good exponential decay curve!

Once we have a good approximation of the half-life for carbon-14, its decay curve can be constructed with complete confidence. We don't need Egyptian mummies or what have you at that point. At that point it's just a routine exercise in math. If you want additional assurance that we have the correct half-life, then look at the close correlation between C-14 dates and tree-ring dates (after correcting for variances in C-14 production caused by changes in the earth's magnetic field). The snug fit indicates that the half-life of C-14 is stable and accurately known. Therefore, so is its decay curve.

Today, the half-lives of those radioactive elements used in dating are known to a few percent by careful laboratory study. So, there's no problem in getting an accurate decay curve. -http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/hovind/howgood-c14.html

All said and done, radiometric dating methods provide a reliable means of determining the ages of critical points in geologic and planetary history, including the age of the Earth, the Moon, and meteorites. That the age of the Earth is billions of years is virtually beyond question because it is supported by a wide variety of independently determined scientific evidence which indicates that the Earth is 4.5 to 4.6 billion years old. Scientists are continually refining this age, but it is highly unlikely that it will change in the future by more than a few percent. In the past, the age of the Earth was the subject of much dispute, but the past few decades have seen the development of new techniques not previously available. There is virtually no dispute among knowledgeable scientists about the antiquity of the Earth and her sister planets.


Creationists calculate the age of the earth to be (depending on the sect of creationists,) from 6,000 to 200,000 years old, with the majority coming in at 10,000 years old. These calculations are derived from numerous methods like Thomas Barnes' decay of the Earth’s magnetic field, in his book, "Origin and destiny of the earth's magnetic field." This is a list of the tabulated ages of the Earth. Keep in mind that none of these methods and results are scientifically valid.

When it comes to young earth creationists, in my opinion the most misinformed segment of creationists, the method originally used to calculate the age of the earth (and therefore a max age of the life on the earth,) was using the genealogies from the Bible.

The Bible begins with the Book of Genesis, in which God creates the world, including the first human, a man named Adam, in six days. Genesis goes on to list many of Adam's descendants, in many cases giving the ages at which they had children and died. If these events and ages are interpreted literally throughout and the genealogies are considered closed, it is possible to build up a chronology in which many of the events of the Old Testament are dated to an estimated number of years after creation. Some scholars have gone further, and have attempted to tie in this Biblical chronology with that of recorded history, thus establishing a date for creation in a modern calendar. Since there are periods in the Biblical story where dates are not given, the chronology has been subject to interpretation in many different ways, resulting in a variety of estimates of the date of creation.

Numerous efforts have been made to determine the Biblical date of creation, yielding varying results. Besides differences in interpretation, which version of the Bible is being referenced also impacts on the result. Two dominant dates for creation using such models exist, about 5500 BC and about 4000 BC. These were calculated from the genealogies in two versions of the Bible, with most of the difference arising from two versions of Genesis. The older dates are based on the Greek Septuagint. The later dates are based on the Hebrew Masoretic text.[58] The patriarchs from Adam to Terah, the father of Abraham, were often 100 years older when they begat their named son in the Septuagint than they were in the Hebrew or the Vulgate (Genesis 5, 11). The net difference between the two genealogies of Genesis was 1466 years (ignoring the "second year after the flood" ambiguity), which is virtually all of the 1500-year difference between 5500 BC and 4000 BC. For example, the period of creation to the Flood is derived using the genealogical table of the ten patriarchs listed in Genesis 5, and 7:6, called the generations of Adam. According to the Masoretic Text, this period consists of 1,656 years, and this dating is also followed by Western Christian Bibles derived from the Latin Vulgate. However, according to the Samaritan texts the period is 1,307 years, and according to the Septuagint (Codex Alexandrinus, Elizabeth Bible) it is 2,262 years. J. Ussher agrees with the dating until the birth of Abraham, which he argues took place when Terah was 130, and not 70 as is the direct reading of Genesis 11:26, thus adding 60 years to his chronology for events postdating Abraham. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dating_creation#Biblical_creation_dates

Many ancient cultures tried to calculate the age of the earth, and since they didn't have to tools and knowledge that we have now, they usually based it on human record and creation myths. According to one interpretation of Puranic Hinduism, the world is believed to have been created 158.7 trillion years ago.


The dates that science comes up with, when compared to results calculated by Creationists, are far less varied. The scientific date will continue to be defined as new technology and theories come forth, but the main thing is that this result will become more precise.

In science, we collect facts, or observations, we use laws to describe them, and a theory to explain them. Scientific theories are explanations of natural phenomena built up logically from testable observations and hypotheses, and the wonderful part of the scientific method is that it requires repeatability, and peer review.

We rely on the accuracy of science in most every part of our lives, why is it that when science is inconstant with the Bible, some people (a majority of Americans,) reject the scientific answer and use the Bible's?

Another source I recommend reading is, "How Old is the Earth," by Brent Dalrymple

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    Welcome to Skeptics.SE. Sir, while I applaud the effort put into this answer, it needs more references from impartial and expert sources: meta.skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/1023/… and meta.skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/5/… outline the qualities of a good answer on this site. Jun 3, 2012 at 2:01
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    Thanks for the examples, I will update my answer when I have the chance. Jun 3, 2012 at 10:54
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    @warren A very large amount of creationists "theories" are not accepted by scientists. I am biased, however if you are referring to "Keep in mind that none of these methods and results are scientifically valid," is correct, and not from me, it's from the table I liked to. Like I said, the vast majority of creationist's "science" does not meet the scientific model. Jun 7, 2012 at 15:41
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    actually it was in reference to the last paragraph, "We rely on the accuracy of science in most every part of our lives, why is it that when science is inconstant with the Bible, some people (a majority of Americans,) reject the scientific answer and use the Bible's?" - Christians who hold the Bible in high esteem will consistently regard it as a higher authority than any science-based result. And this is true for a variety of topics, not merely concerning origins. "Science" changes (look at old medical ads for example). The Bible doesn't.
    – warren
    Jun 7, 2012 at 16:55
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    @warren liarsforjesus.com is just a small example of it. Not to mention that the entire answers in genesis effort is heaps of lies upon lies set up to support their flawed view of reality. At some point, ignoring evidence gets to the point of pathological lying. Jun 10, 2012 at 0:27

This claim is wrong for so many reasons.

1) Radiometric dating relies on certain unstable elements decaying into stable ones over time. The rate of that decay is constant and can be used for measuring time - the less of the unstable element exists, the more time has passed. Nuclear explosions can create such unstable elements and throw off some dating methods - but that would make the tested material seem younger, not older, than it actually is.

2) Carbon-14 dating aka radiocarbon dating is based on estimating the rate of unstable carbon (carbon-14) in the past. Sunlight constantly turns nitrogen into carbon-14 in the higher layers of the atmosphere; this results in a more or less constant ratio of stable and unstable carbon in the air. Those stable and unstable variants have the same chemical properties and thus are assimilated with the same rate by living organisms, where over time carbon-14 decays back into nitrogen. Since there is no process that would replenish carbon-14 inside the remains of a living organism, comparing the actual ratio of stable carbon (carbon-12) and carbon-14 in a bone or piece of wood to the ratio in the air tells you how long ago it was that the organism died and stopped incorporating carbon-14 from the air.

Now the ratio of carbon-12 and carbon-14 is not quite constant, and that does represent a problem for radiocarbon dating. Nuclear explosions can affect it (and cause a bomb pulse); so can changes in solar activity like sunspots; or changes in the Earth's magnetic field; or old fully-decayed carbon being emitted from oceans or volcanoes; and so on. Scientists overcome that by dating objects with known age (from history, from counting tree rings, etc) and using the results to build a timeline of carbon-12/carbon-14 ratio, which can be used for dating objects with unknown age. But all that is not really relevant to the question because a) all the changes discussed above are not huge (on the scale of 10%; that's a big problem for a historian but not nearly enough to make radiocarbon dates fit a biblical timeline) and b) radiocarbon dating cannot be used for time spans longer than a few ten thousand years anyway (carbon-14 decays too quickly for that).

3) So instead for dating millions-of-years-old things, geologists and biologists use a method called isochron dating, which is based on the idea that different elements have different chemical properties and tend to separate when molten lava cools and crystals and other structures are formed, while isotopes of the same element have identical properties and are distributed in the same way within the rock. So you pick three elements where two are isotopes and the third decays into one of those isotopes - for example strontium-87 and strontium-86 (with identical chemical properties) and rubidium-87 (which decays into strontium-87 over time). Since Sr-87 and Sr-86 have the same chemical properties, the Sr-87/Sr-86 ratio will be the same in all parts of the rock; but Sr and Rb have different chemical properties, so the Sr/Rb ratio will be different. Plotting various parts of the rock on a graph where the X axis is the ratio of Rb-87/Sr-86 and the Y-axis is Sr-87/Sr-86, you would get a horizontal line. Over time, Rb decays to Sr-87 so the Sr-87/Sr-86 ratio won't be the same anymore and the change to it will be proportional to the Rb-87/Sr-86 ratio - the points will still be on a line but the line will now be a slope, with the angle of the slope showing how much time has passed.

The key insight here is that there is no need to know the initial element ratios for isochron dating, and even if an explosion or another process creates new radioactive elements, it won't affect the results (unless it creates them at a different rate in different parts of the rock, and exactly the right rate to still keep the points on a straight line). So for isochron dating (which is the relevant dating method when talking about millions of years) the claim is entirely false.

4) All the factual errors aside, the claim does not make much sense. There were no nuclear explosions involved in the flood or any other story in the Bible. Could God have created the world in an "aged" state, so that even though it is actually freshly created, it looks old? Sure. It could have created the world five minutes ago, and made it look old (including planting fake memories of a past that did not really happen). Those kinds of claims cannot be scientifically proven or disproven - they are in the realm of philosophy and theology (and are considered pretty weak claims there, but that's outside the scope of the question). Naturally, the fact that nuclear explosions can throw off dating methods cannot help proving or disproving such claims either. (As I wrote above, it's a fake fact, but even if it were true, it just wouldn't be a relevant argument.)

The Hiroshima reference, then, is just misdirection, to give the thin veneer of scienceyness to a claim that's fundamentally not scientific in nature.

  • "there is no process that would replenish carbon-14 inside the remains of a living organism" That would make more sense without the word "living". Aug 20, 2018 at 19:36

The answer is yes. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon-14#Origin_and_radioactive_decay

Other factors that can influence natural C14 production - Strength of Earth's magnetic field. Higher field strength results is lower C14 production - Cosmic radiation rate.

Common mistake: Assume Cosmic radiation rate and earth's magnetic field strength are near constants. Nothing is further from the truth. C-14 dating has been historical problematic due to errors in calibration curves. Nuclear blasts are just one source of several factors that can influence C-14 concentrations and introduce error in dating calculations.

Biggest concern today, anyone who questions dating techniques is assumed to have an anti-science agenda.

(from the Wikipedia article. Facts match my notes from Geophysics taken as an undergraduate.)

Carbon-14 is produced in the upper layers of the troposphere and the stratosphere by thermal neutrons absorbed by nitrogen atoms. When cosmic rays enter the atmosphere, they undergo various transformations, including the production of neutrons. The resulting neutrons (1n) participate in the following reaction: 1n + 14N → 14C + 1p The highest rate of carbon-14 production takes place at altitudes of 9 to 15 km (30,000 to 50,000 ft) and at high geomagnetic latitudes.

Other carbon-14 sources[edit] Carbon-14 can also be produced by other neutron reactions, including in particular 13C(n,gamma)14C and 17O(n,alpha)14C with thermal neutrons, and 15N(n,d)14C and 16O(n,3He)14C with fast neutrons.[14] The most notable routes for 14C production by thermal neutron irradiation of targets (e.g., in a nuclear reactor) are summarized in the table. Carbon-14 may also be radiogenic (cluster decay of 223Ra, 224Ra, 226Ra). However, this origin is extremely rare.

Formation during nuclear tests The above-ground nuclear tests that occurred in several countries between 1955 and 1980 (see nuclear test list) dramatically increased the amount of carbon-14 in the atmosphere and subsequently in the biosphere; after the tests ended, the atmospheric concentration of the isotope began to decrease. One side-effect of the change in atmospheric carbon-14 is that this has enabled some options (e.g. bomb-pulse dating[19]) for determining the birth year of an individual, in particular, the amount of carbon-14 in tooth enamel,[20][21] or the carbon-14 concentration in the lens of the eye.[22]

  • Welcome to Skeptics! Please provide some references to support your claims, such as it being affected by magnetic fields, that C-14 dating has had historical problems with calibration curves, that anyone who questions dating techniques is assumed to have an anti-science agenda.
    – Oddthinking
    Mar 25, 2014 at 0:38
  • Also, I wanted to check: you are answering "Yes", that the high levels of C14 at Hiroshima would trick scientists into believing the land was much OLDER rather than much YOUNGER, and that this implies ALL scientific dating methods are unreliable. I don't think you've demonstrated that.
    – Oddthinking
    Mar 25, 2014 at 0:42

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