Although I find it quite irksome when assertions are made that reflect a gross misunderstanding of scientific principles, this post should be considered more of a public service announcement for those who are guilty of one of the more egregious errors, so that they won't embarrass themselves in the future. After all, in Jewish thought embarrassing someone is a very serious matter and is often said to be equivalent to murder. Therefore saving someone from embarrassing oneself is analogous to preventing someone from committing suicide!
I want to make a few points concerning the C-14 radiometric dating technique. The technical nitty-gritty is beyond the scope of this post, so refer to the Wiki article if you are so inclined.
Radiocarbon dating is only one of a number of dating techniques, each of which is useful for specific materials and/or environments. Most importantly, C-14 can only be used on organic materials (only living organisms take up C-14) which are younger than approximately 10 half-lives. Since the half-life of C-14 is about 5700 years (coincidentally very close to the age of the universe, heh heh), it can be used to date objects - at most - up to approximately 60,000 years old. The upper-age limits usually require special enrichment techniques and are therefore less accurate because problems such as sample contamination (always a concern) become increasingly problematic at such low levels of remaining C-14.
Somewhat unintuitively, very young samples are also not usually suitable for dating simply because so much fossil fuel carbon has been released into the atmosphere by humans over the last couple hundred years. Such carbon is very old and thus has negligible C-14, so the initial C-14/C-12 ratio (the critical factor in dating) taken up by organisms is too low to provide meaningful decay data.
Finally, note that radiometric dates are always given as "plus or minus" dates, reflecting the level of certainty of the measurement (unless otherwise stated, usually a 68% confidence level is given, i.e., one standard deviation.)
So, Chabadniks, Dovid Gottlieb-ists, and other young earth creationists, to avoid peoples' BS meters from going off the scale, please do not:
- use the terms "age-of-the-earth" and C-14 in the same sentence or talk about using C-14 to date "rocks"
- assert that C-14 dating of dinosaur bones proves that dinosaurs and man were contemporaneous (refer to The Great Dinosaur Mystery) - scientists simply do not use C-14 for determining the age of dinosaurs.
- point out anomalous dating determinations for very young specimens in an attempt to discredit the validity of C-14 dating
- suggest that dating uncertainties demonstrates a flaw in the technique itself
Yes, that last sentence was a direct wiki quote, and no, that is not the limit of my knowledge in the area. Although it has admittedly been many years, I have grad-school level experience in the field.