New Record Set for Soft Tissue in Fossils

This is an example of a Sabellidites cambriensis fossil. (click for credit)

This is an example of a Sabellidites cambriensis fossil. (click for credit)

Sabellidites cambriensis is an animal that we know only from the fossil record. It is thought to be a worm-like creature that built its own tube in which to live. Its fossils are found in Ediacaran rock, which is supposed to be on the order of 550 million years old. Evolutionists are interested in studying organisms from this rock, because they are thought to be the oldest multicelled animals. The problem is that there are other fossils of tube-forming animals in the same rock, so it is difficult for evolutionists to tease out the supposed relationships that exist between S. cambriensis and similar animals that are alive today.

In order to better understand S. cambriensis, a group of paleontologists examined several fossils using electron microscopes, X-rays, and spectrometers. Their analysis indicates that the structure and layering of the fossils’ tubes are similar to that of an existing group of animals known as beard worms,1 an example of which is shown below:

These are beard worms.  They live on the ocean floor, typically near hydrothermal vents, methane seeps, or the carcasses of whales.  (public domain image)

These are beard worms. They live on the ocean floor, typically near hydrothermal vents, methane seeps, or the carcasses of whales. (public domain image)

As a result, the authors conclude that the S. cambriensis fossils represent ancient forerunners of the beard worms. This presents a bit of a problem for evolutionists, however. As the authors note, using molecular clock estimates, it was thought that beard worms didn’t evolve until about 126 million years ago. Since the fossils the authors studied are supposed to be about 550 million years old, their analysis says that the molecular clock estimate is off by almost a factor of four! However, I personally think these fossils represent an even bigger problem for evolutionists.

In the paper, the authors note that portions of the fossil are not mineralized. In other words, they are still soft. As the authors report:

The Sabellidites organic body is preserved without permineralization. Minerals have not replicated any part of the soft tissue and the carbonaceous material of the wall is primary, preserving the original layering of the wall, its texture, and fabrics. Moreover, the fabrics, observed in STEM/SEM/TEM (see below), are fibers composed of resilient organic matter embedded in a less resilient organic matrix (Fig. 2.2) that may be dissolved thereby exposing fibers on fractured surfaces (Fig. 2.3-2.6). [NOTE: “STEM/SEM/TEM” refers to different electron microscope techniques.]

In the figures to which the quote refers, you can see fibers that are less than 0.5 millionths of a meter wide! So these delicate fibers have supposedly stayed soft for 550 million years! As far as I know, this sets the record for how long you have to believe soft tissue can survive if you want to hold to the standard geological timeline. It’s staggering enough to think that soft tissue can survive for 50-80 million years, as other fossils have demonstrated (see here, here, here, and here, for example). Now that’s not enough. To believe the standard geological timescale, you now have to believe that delicate strands of it can survive nearly ten times longer!

That’s not the end of the story, however. The authors were able to identify chitin in one of the fossils. This molecule is made by many living organisms today, and it has been found in other fossils as well. More than three years ago, I discussed the fact that it had been found in a scorpion fossil that is supposed to be 417 million years old. Well, the fact that it has been found in one of the S. cambriensis sets yet another record. As the authors state:

The S. cambriensis example extends the record of chitin preservation (Cody et. al., 2011) by some 130 Ma.

As a chemist, it is hard for me to understand how soft tissue and modified polysaccharides like chitin can survive for hundreds of millions of years. It is much easier for me to believe that these fossils aren’t nearly as old as the standard geological timescale indicates.


1. Moczydlowska, M., F. Estall, and F. Foucher, “Microstructure and Biogeochemistry of the Organically Preserved Ediacaran Metazoan Sabellidites,” Journal of Paleontology 88(2):224-239, 2014..
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  1. Chris May 22, 2014 11:10 am

    Didn’t Schweitzer prove that iron can preserve soft tissue for eons of time?

  2. JoeCoder May 22, 2014 11:12 am

    A question from someone who is chemistry-ignorant:

    If the amino acids become completely racemized, is it possible for them to still be “soft tissue”? If so, what chemical processes prevent them from being there after 550m years?

    • jlwile May 22, 2014 11:54 am

      Joe, I don’t know of any evidence that the amino acids in the proteins of such soft tissue are racemized. However, if they are, that probably wouldn’t degrade the soft tissue structure. The amino acids of some proteins will racemize over time. That affects their chemical nature, but it doesn’t strongly affect their physical nature. That’s one reason it is difficult to separate racemic mixtures into enantiomerically pure samples.

  3. JoeCoder May 22, 2014 4:36 pm

    If not racemization, what chemical processes would prevent soft-tissue from being preserved for 550 million years?

    • jlwile May 23, 2014 5:18 am

      Joe, the biomolecules that make up soft tissue are all thermodynamically unstable. They spontaneously decay. That’s why your body has to continually make new ones – to replace the ones that have decayed. The rate of that decay depends on many factors, but calculations indicate that most proteins last “only” about 30,000 years or so.

  4. Henriette from Norway May 22, 2014 4:44 pm


    Well Jwile. Im quite interested in the geological scale and how it is viewed as a fact by many geologists.

    Lets do a thought experiment. I have found a huge bone deep down in the ground in my garden and goes to a lab to get it dated. In my mind it looks like a dinosaur bone,but Im not sure and won’t share my insecurities with the researchers. Will the researches at the lab ask me any questions before that procedure will take place? In that case,what will they ask?

    • jlwile May 23, 2014 5:26 am

      Henriette, if you think the bone is a dinosaur bone, a radiometric dating facility will not date it. That’s because about the only dating technique used on the fossils themselves is carbon dating, and it has a maximum range of about 100,000 years or so. Since the conventional wisdom says dinosaur bones are millions of years old, it would be assumed that carbon dating would yield no good results. Of course, that conventional wisdom is wrong.

      Most radiometric dating is done on specific kinds of rocks. Now…if you send an appropriate rock in for dating (let’s say you send an igneous rock in for potassium-argon dating), the lab would like as much information as possible about the rock. Often, the person asking for the date will include the position of the rock in the geological column. That will allow the lab to “exclude anomalous results.” However, that kind of information is not always included.

  5. Daren H May 25, 2014 6:51 pm

    Dont see any problem with this in the geological timescale. The fibers are so tiny you should expect the surrounding permineralisation to protect the organic material from leaching. Furthermore, the sample in question is chitin, similar to collagen in function.

    Dr Wile, is it really prudent to claim the samples are far younger than what geologists claim for the sole reason soft tissue was found? You believe the Earth is only a few thousand years old, correct? If so, would you expect such as advanced degree of permineralisation in the vast majority of fossils if they are only a few thousand years old? Is that to the point the moment soft tissue is found, you automatically dispute the dates assigned?

    Also interesting to note that Snelling recently was forced to conclude that radiometric dating was precise and he had to invoke accelerated nuclear decay to explain the concordant dating of Allende meteorites. (Nevermind the millionfold decay rates that would boil the oceans and turn the Earth reminiscent of the Hadean Eon). See here:

    and a detailed breakdown:

    • jlwile May 25, 2014 8:11 pm

      Thanks for your comment, Daren. I will have to disagree with you. Chemically, it doesn’t matter that the surrounding material is permineralized. The fact is that these large biomolecules are thermodynamically unstable. They will decay spontaneously. Once again, the best calculations indicate that tens of thousands of years is the maximum lifetime of such molecules. From a chemistry point of view, hundreds of millions of years simply doesn’t make sense.

      If you read much of this blog, you know that I don’t think soft tissue is the “sole reason” for thinking these samples are young. The vast majority of the evidence points to a young earth. Soft tissue is just one small piece of the evidence.

      And yes, I would expect an advanced degree of permineralisation in the vast majority of fossils in a young earth. The process of minerals replacing organic tissue is relatively rapid, especially in conditions which involve rapid burial. This is why we find fossilized waterwheels and fossilized hats.

      Not surprisingly, you are mischaracterizing Snelling on his discussion of meteorites. He never suggests that the radiometric dates of the meteorites is accurate. He only states that there is concordance. Of course, he gives the explanation for why:

      However, if accelerated radioisotope decay did occur on the earth, then it could be argued every atom in the universe would be similarly affected at the same time. Furthermore, meteorites are regarded as primordial material left over from the formation of the solar system, which is compatible with the Hebrew text of Genesis that suggests God made primordial material on Day One of the Creation Week, from which He made the non-earth portion of the solar system on Day Four. Thus today’s measured radioisotope composition of Allende may reflect a geochemical signature of that primordial material, which included atoms of all elemental isotopes.

      So it is not surprising that there is concordance. Accelerated decay would affect all isotopes in the universe, not just the ones on earth. As a result, it would be surprising if there weren’t concordance. You say, “Nevermind the millionfold decay rates that would boil the oceans and turn the Earth reminiscent of the Hadean Eon.” I agree that there are problems with the idea of accelerated radioactive decay, but there is also strong evidence that it happened and can still happen (see here and here, for example). We should not ignore such evidence just because we don’t understand all the details surrounding it.

      Your link to the Natural Historian is no better. I understand that the author is trying to “spin” the data to make it look as good as possible for an old-earth view, but it just doesn’t work. His statement that soft tissue preservation should be common in a young earth ignores some basic chemistry. The fact is that even with rapid burial, the physical stress, pressure, and associated heat would not be conducive to the preservation of soft tissue. It would also not be conducive to the preservation of intact skeletons, etc. In the end, the fossil record looks remarkably like what one would expect from a worldwide Flood that happened in the past few thousand years.

      I also think you need to keep up on your reading, since distant starlight is not a problem for young-earth creationists. In fact, the constant speed of light produces a serious problem called the “horizon problem” for old-earthers.

  6. Daren H May 25, 2014 7:03 pm

    You might be interested in this as well:

    How old would you think the Earth is, given these findings? And isnt the observation of starlight millions of light years away still a problem for YECism?

  7. Keith May 25, 2014 7:23 pm

    I’m wondering about something, Dr. Wile. Your series of blog posts “my top 5 reasons for believing in a young earth” seem convincing to me, and discoveries like soft tissue in dinosaur bones and fossils definitely are better explained in a young earth view. So, the evidence for a young earth seems compelling to me right now. However, is there equally compelling evidence for a young universe as a whole?

    My personal view (which is tentative and open to revision) is that the earth and solar system are young, but the universe itself is very old. In particular, the issue of starlight taking time to reach the earth seems like a strong point for the old universe view. I’m aware that it CAN be explained in a young universe view via general relativity, but I’m not convinced such an explanation is the best one.

    I’m open to the idea that the universe might be young, but I have not heard many good arguments for this position.

    • jlwile May 25, 2014 8:20 pm

      Keith, I think the problem with trying to figure out the age of the universe is that clocks in different parts of the universe tick quite differently from clocks in other parts of the universe. That’s because the speed at which time passes depends on the local gravitational field and the history of that field. Thus, there can be parts of the universe that appear very old, because clocks have been ticking very quickly in those parts of the universe. There can be other parts of the universe that look very young, because clocks have been ticking slowly in those parts of the universe. However, according to some young-earth creationists, there is evidence for a young universe.

      As I indicated to Daren, distant starlight is not a problem for young-earthers. Indeed, if you believe in general relativity, there is simply no reason to think that starlight from billions of light years away took billions of earth years to get here. In order to believe that, you have to believe in the cosmological principle, which goes against nearly every observation ever made!

  8. Keith May 26, 2014 7:03 am

    Thanks for that information and those links, Dr. Wile. I wasn’t aware that believers in an old universe had a problem with distant stars as well (the horizon problem). Compared to a solution as ad hoc as inflation, the idea of general relativity explaining distant starlight doesn’t seem so unlikely after all!

  9. Natural Historian May 27, 2014 1:59 pm

    No spin involved really. I used evidence. In the YEC paradigm there are many creatures that were preserved after a Noaic flood but before the ice age. This puts their age at 4250 to 4500 years for Oard and others. There are many fossils from this time period and they show remarkable preservation or organic molecules to the point that DNA (a very weak molecule compared to some others) can be sequences in relatively long strands. Mastadons etc. have tissues preserved. These must be at least 4000 years old. Flood preserved organisms would only be 200 to 300 years older and yet they exhibit vastly greater mineralization and chemical breakdown. Are we to believe that at the same time there was accelerated radioactive decay in the past that there was also accelerated organics decay that suddenly slowed right after the flood?
    BTW, I agree that very few conditions are conducive to soft tissue preservation. This is why it is so rare rather than just being an age thing. Joel

    • jlwile May 27, 2014 5:08 pm

      I am going to have to disagree with you, Joel. You were using spin, not evidence. In fact, there are many fossils throughout the geological column that show remarkable preservation. Indeed, even DNA (which I agree is a very weak molecule) has been found in fossils that are supposed to be 65+ million years old. Additionally, DNA from a fossil that is supposed to be 560,000-780,000 years old has been sequenced. Thus, it is not clear that remarkable preservation is any more prevalent in post-Flood fossils than in Flood fossils. I suspect that the blinders of evolution have just kept paleontologists from looking for it in Flood fossils until now.

      But let’s suppose there is better preservation in post-Flood fossils. That wouldn’t surprise me in the least. After all, the conditions of fossilization were quite different during the Flood. The water was hotter (due to the fountains of the deep), and it was a lot more mineralized (due to the vast scale of erosion as well as, once again, the fountains of the deep). In addition, the pressure that most of these fossils experienced was much greater (due to the vast amount of sediment). In the end, then, there is no need to hypothesize accelerated organic decay. All one has to do is think of the chemistry and physics involved.

  10. Daren H May 27, 2014 10:09 pm

    Thank you for the response, Dr Wile. You raise some good points, and I am going to need time to read through all the links you gave me. I do not want to turn your comment section into a debate forum, so I will post my last two comments here. Your response to Naturalis Historia,

    “Thus, it is not clear that remarkable preservation is any more prevalent in post-Flood fossils than in Flood fossils. I suspect that the blinders of evolution have just kept paleontologists from looking for it in Flood fossils until now.”

    This is not true, especially in the case of dinosaur DNA.

    There have been multiple attempts to find DNA. Heres another one, this time the researchers ran their dino soft tissue sample through two rounds of PCR. They found nothing.

    In the 90s researchers have attempted, multiple times to extract dinosaur DNA, normally from mosquitoes and even a few times from dinosaur eggs. (Also remember the dinosaur DNA craze after Jurassic Park?) In most cases any DNA found was due to contamination. Wikipedia
    has described this under sub-heading “antediluvian DNA studies”

    Regarding Dr Schweitzer’s soft tissue sample, she herself acknowledges that her test for DNA remains inconclusive.

    • jlwile May 28, 2014 6:01 am

      Thanks for your reply, Daren. In the first article you linked, soft tissue was not used for the attempted DNA extraction. As the authors state:

      One gram of cortical bone was crushed to a coarse powder with a sterile pestle and mortar. A lipid extraction was performed under a fume hood using methylene chloride and methanol (4:1). The lipid layer was discarded. The DNA extraction was performed in separate laboratories to where the polymerase chain reactions (PCRs) were carried out, and separate lab coats were worn.

      If I choose a single gram of bone from a fossil that is supposedly of more recent origin, it’s not clear I would find DNA, either.

      The Wikipedia article you cite does mention the study that I cited for Joel and you conveniently ignored: the fact that a fossil that is supposedly more than half a million years old had DNA that could be sequenced. As Joel says, DNA is a “very weak molecule.” Indeed, one study says its half-life is only 521 years. The fact that it can be sequenced after supposedly half a million years is hard to understand, to say the least.

      I agree that more can be done when it comes to Schweitzer’s DNA test, but the fact is that an antigen that binds to DNA ended up binding inside the preserved cells in exactly the places you would expect it to bind. That’s very strong evidence there is DNA in those cells.

  11. Joel May 28, 2014 9:24 am

    When I say a weak molecule I probably don’t mean as weak as you are thinking. However, I don’t know of any repeatable experimental results that give us DNA beyond 5 million years of age. All those other reports are clearly modern contaminants for multiple reasons. But you have to understand that even samples that are 1 million vs 1 thousand years old it isn’t just that they have DNA. The real issue that I’m talking about is the quality of the DNA. Those DNA stains may work as long as there are two nucleotides next to one another but the DNA could be degraded to the point of just a few bit left. You mention the Moa study that gave a ½ life of 521 years (under one particular set of conditions). In that paper they show an asymptotic decay curve like a radioactive decay curve. They suggest the vast majority of DNA would be gone after 100,000 years but even if 99.99% is gone we may still be able to reconstruct the genome because of 3rd and 4th generation sequencers that can directly sequence even 2 to 10 bp pieces. I’ve I have written multiple times, that horse sequence from 780,000 years ago was highly degraded. You mentioned a review paper (Bada et al from 1999) as your reference about decay but with respect to DNA we really didn’t know anything in 1999 despite reports of ancient DNA being sequenced. We now know that all those efforts to amplify ancient DNA were doomed because they used PCR primers (themselves 18 to 30 bp in length) to try to amplify DNA strands of 100 to 1000 bp in length). My memory is that horse genome was degraded into fragments of an average length of less than 100bp and that even a 50bp fragment would have had multiple nicks to its phosphate backbone yielding conventional PCR about impossible. We can now use enzyme repair on aDNA extraction to fix the strands and then we don’t do PCR but rather clone directly and then sequence or now we can directly sequence the original DNA. In 1999 sequence from anything very ancient was basically impossible. That didn’t mean that ancient DNA didn’t exist but the technology wasn’t there to get at it. That DNA from the human in the Sima de los Huesos dated at 400,000 years old had DNA had experienced 99% total degradation of its DNA but because we can extract that last 1% of intact DNA from several grams of tissue it was possible to piece the genome together. But that 1% was not long strands it mostly was 5 to 20bp pieces with other chemical damage. These bones should be less than 4000 years old by YEC standards and yet the DNA degradation in cool relatively dry placed was quite extreme. Bones from the same cave systems that are thousands or hundreds of years easily yield DNA which can be extracted in long intact strands despite being preserved under the same conditions.
    With new technology and finding some bones that are under the best possible preservation conditions there is no reason to believe that 2 to 5bp pieces of DNA could survive 100 million years or more. Its like radioactive decay. That atom is unstable and given a million atoms many will decay very soon but there will be some atoms that won’t decay for a LONG time. The decay curve of DNA tells us that some WILL survive for a long time and our technology is now finding ways to find that needle in the haystack.

    • jlwile May 28, 2014 4:49 pm

      Joel, I think you need to research this a bit more, as you seem to have some misconceptions regarding how DNA staining works, as well as how exponential functions work. First, a DNA stain such as one employed by Schweitzer will not bind when you have “two nucleotides next to one another.” The antibody the team used for DNA staining is sensitive to the double-helix structure of DNA. Thus, the DNA had to be intact structurally, which would require a lot more than just a couple of nucleotides strung together. In addition, as you will see below, even 2 nucleotides strung together after about 100 million years requires a DNA half-life of about 5 million years, which is nonsensical. As a result, I find the Schweitzer results quite credible, and they show that good DNA preservation probably can be found throughout the fossil record, although it probably isn’t very common, because as you suggest, it takes specific conditions, in addition to a reasonably short timescale.

      You are correct that the sequenced horse DNA had average lengths of less than 100 bp. In fact, it was 77.5, according to the paper. However, that’s an average, so there were longer pieces as well as shorter pieces. However, let’s subject your speculations to mathematics, and you will see that they simply don’t work. The 2012 paper I cited says that the half-life of DNA in bones is 521 years. Thus, this specimen went through at least 1,000 half-lives. That means the DNA should be degraded by a factor of 2^1000, or 1×10301. Clearly, there is no way we could sequence something that was that degraded – there are only supposed to be about 1080 atoms in the entire universe!

      Now, of course, the half-life of DNA might be longer than 521 years. We can make a rough calculation of what the half-life would need to be in order to get 77-base-pair segments preserved for more than 500,000 years. The horse genome is about 2.7 billion base pairs. 77 divided by 2.7 billion is 2.9×10-8. If an exponentially-decaying molecule needs to be 2.9×10-8 intact, that means only about 25 half lives (1/225 = 3×10-8) could have passed. Thus, the half-life of DNA would need to be about 20,000 years. Why, then, is the 2012 paper off by more than a factor of 39 when it estimates the half-life of DNA?

      As to your statement, “there is no reason to believe that 2 to 5bp pieces of DNA could survive 100 million years or more. Its like radioactive decay,” hopefully the math is clear. For 2-5 bp pieces from a 3 billion base pair genome to survive over 100 million years, the half-life of DNA would have to be about 5 million years. That, of course, simply doesn’t work.

      Once again, this is why it is very hard to believe that such great preservation can last as long as you need it to last in an old-earth framework. The mathematics just don’t support it.

  12. Gedanken May 28, 2014 8:06 pm

    “As to your statement, “there is no reason to believe that 2 to 5bp pieces of DNA could survive 100 million years or more. Its like radioactive decay,” hopefully the math is clear. For 2-5 bp pieces from a 3 billion base pair genome to survive over 100 million years, the half-life of DNA would have to be about 5 million years. That, of course, simply doesn’t work.”

    As you are prone to say, ‘I think you need to research this a bit more.” Exponential decay is a stochastic process and not amenable to maths like this. You would instead need to know the variance of the decay process (assuming the process was normally distributed) or even higher order moments in order to determine the probability of some number of molecules still being extant after a specified interval.

    • jlwile May 29, 2014 4:53 am

      Actually, Gedanken, you are the one who needs to do more research on this. It is best to start with the 2012 paper I referenced earlier. The way they calculated the half-life of DNA was to measure the degradation of DNA in 158 different bones. They found that while there were variations from bone to bone, which they suggested were due to details regarding bone preservation and the way the sediments in which they were preserved turned into rock, the data were best fit by an exponential decay curve. This, of course, is the kind of math I used in my analysis. Thus, the decay of DNA can be described by the math that I used.

      I agree that exponential decay is a stochastic process. If you are saying that a single molecule cannot be analyzed with such mathematics, I would agree. However, we are not dealing with a single molecule here. We are dealing with several molecules, so statistical analysis applies. The average molecule can be described using the decay curve, which is precisely what I did. Remember, in the case of supposedly 500,000+ year old DNA, the average length was 77.5 base pairs. There were longer segments and shorter segments. However, the average was 77.5 base pairs. That’s precisely what the exponential decay curve tracks – the average.

  13. Daren H May 29, 2014 7:17 am

    Dr Wile,

    Your first two links. The paper estimating the half life of DNA. The paper cites an average burial temperature of 13.1C, taken from extinct Moa un New Zealand. Yet the Equus genome sequenced was taken from inner Alaska, several layers below the surface in permafrost (below 0C). It is known that permafrost never melts, except the first 30 to 100cm. The equus was found buried several metres below, implying it was probably frozen many years below 0C permanently. I think the average temperature in inner Alaska is -9 to 11C? Forgot. Anyway, my point is temperature has a VERY substantial effect on the rate of DNA decay.
    DNA on Egyptian papyrii is only estimated to have a half life of 19-24 years. Since we dont know the half life of DNA below 0C

    consider this article:

    And draw attention to this quote

    “The team predicts that even in a bone at an ideal preservation temperature of −5 ºC, effectively every bond would be destroyed after a maximum of 6.8 million years. The DNA would cease to be readable much earlier — perhaps after roughly 1.5 million years, when the remaining strands would be too short to give meaningful information.”

    Ok so by Joels information the max limit is about 50 bp before PCR is useless. So lets pretend that they are talking about the horse genome:

    using N = N0 exp (-kt), N = 50 , N0 = 3 billion, t = 1.5 million years so derive k

    (-5C) eqn 1: k = – ln (N/N0) / t k(-5C) = 1.2*10^-5

    half life of DNA at -5C = – ln (0.5)/(1.2 *10^-5) = 57800 years so pretty ideal for preserving an average bp of 77.5 per strand (10 half lives)

    Of course this is a very gross oversimplification and the team could be incorrect about DNA preservation in permafrost but you see my point. Temperature has a very important factor. With that, I dont see a problem with DNA degradation being 40 times slower in permafrost than in New Zealand.

    Of course, operating on this assumption poses problems for the age of dinosaur bone since allegedly with DNA since there should be none left, but consider this. Lets assume that Dr Schweitzers DNA test was indeed valid, although I dont think it is. Wont the rate of degradation decrease once the DNA becomes so tiny until its at the nucleotide level? I could see how 2-5 bp could theoretically survive at 100 million years if the conditions for DNA degradation were violated (maybe like a partial vacuum?). More research HAS to be done on the mechanisms of DNA degradation before we draw conclusions. And propidium iodide reacts by intercalating between nitrogenous bases, not to the DNA helix itself. Same with DAPI, it binds to A-T regions.

    Then again this is all speculation.

    • jlwile May 29, 2014 8:27 am

      Daren, I agree that temperature is an important factor, and your calculations are correct if the team that determined the half-life of DNA is correct. However, the fossil was not preserved at -5 C. As the authors of the paper that sequenced the genome state:

      Relict ice wedges below the unit indicate persistent permafrost since deposition (Supplementary Information, section 1.1), whereas the organic unit, hosting the fossil, indicates a period of permafrost degradation, or a thaw unconformity7, during a past interglacial as warm or warmer than present.

      Remember, climate changes, especially over any long time span. Thus, the idea that the temperature was ideal for DNA preservation over hundreds of thousands of years simply makes no sense.

      As I pointed out to Joel, the antibody that Schweitzer used in her team’s analysis would not be sensitive to 2-5 base pairs. In order for it to bind, the double-helical structure of the DNA has to exist, and that would require more than 3-5 base pairs. I absolutely agree that more research has to be done on the mechanisms of DNA degradation, but based on what we know now, the data collected aren’t consistent with the timescale that is necessary.

  14. Daren H May 29, 2014 8:27 am

    Ok, last comment here.

    Sorry if the last post seemed a little convoluted. I looked up the properties of the staining chemical Dr Schweitzer used (DAPI and propidium iodide), and they dont bind to the double helix, but to the regions rich in particular nitrogenous bases.

    The paper on Equus estimates that modern horses, zebras and donkeys diverged from it 4 million years ago. However by the YEC paradigm this had to happen in the span of a few thousand years! Or are horses and zebras part of a different “kind”? Bear in mind that horses and zebras have different chromosome numbers.

    Ok, so thats all I need to say about DNA, so now to the distant starlight problem. The CMI article linked has been rather vague, only referencing that “gravity could bend time and light” to paraphrase. I would venture to postulate that it would require impossibly huge amounts of gravity to bend time by such a massive degree, such as to render the whole thing implausible. Another thing it mentions is “Big Bangers have the Horizon Problem”

    Well this is all related to the homogeneity of the CMBR but recently they found new evidence for the inflation theory, in the form of gravitational ripples through the Universe and minute anisotropies in the CMBR. Moreover the CMBR isnt the only evidence for the Big Bang. It has been used to explain the lack of heavier elements in the oldest nebulae in the Universe, but an abundance of light elements. BBT explains this since no element heavier than helium could be formed in strong force interactions in the first moment of the BB. More explanations have further backed up BB such as the accelerating expansion of the Universe, evidenced by increasing redshift of the more distant galaxies, smaller galaxies with increasing frequency of quasars the further back one goes etc. Anyway thats the point. The Big Bang isnt proven,as science cant prove anything, but it is by far the best explanation for the behaviour of the Universe.

    • jlwile May 29, 2014 8:47 am

      Daren, I am not sure you are right about the antibody that Schweitzer used. As the authors state in the article:

      Finally, we tested for the presence of DNA in dinosaur cells, using an antibody raised against the double-stranded DNA backbone.

      I agree that the stain used binds to Adenosine-Thymine rich regions in DNA, but there is more to the process than that. Even if that were the only issue, note that the DNA must be rich in Adenosine-Thymine binds. That implies a lot more than 2-5 base pairs!

      I think you need to research the light travel issue a lot more. The CMI article is an overview, so it doesn’t give details. However, there are lot of references that do give the details. In the model, the universe expands with a spherical geometry. Using the equations of Carmelian cosmology, this causes time to move very slowly near the center of the sphere and more quickly near the edges. Thus, if the earth is near the center of the universe (and the article links to a reference that provides evidence for this), there is plenty of time for light to travel from the edges of the galaxy to the earth.

      So no, the travel time of light is not a problem for young-earth creationists. The Big Bang is also not anywhere close to the best explanation for the behavior of the universe. In order to be forced in to compliance with the data, lots of absurd things have to be assumed, such as dark energy and the cosmological principle. As the CMI article says, Carmelian cosmology fits the observational data much better, without lots of ad hoc assumptions.

  15. S.M. May 30, 2014 9:00 am

    Dr. Wile, do you think the evidence supports a location for the earth close to the center of the universe?

    • jlwile May 30, 2014 10:07 am

      S. M., if there is evidence for earth being at the center of the universe, it is very weak. Hartnett and Humphreys think the quantization of redshifts provides such evidence, but it’s not clear the quantization of redshifts is real. Wikipedia has a good discussion of the situation.

  16. S.M. May 30, 2014 11:55 am

    If not directly at the center of the universe, do you think the evidence supports a location for the earth that is near the center? And if not, how that would affect your reading of Hartnett & Humphrey’s model? Does their model depend upon that location?

    • jlwile May 30, 2014 1:43 pm

      Their models do depend on the earth being near the center of the universe. If quantized redshifts are real, they would be evidence for such a position. I don’t know of any other observation that would support or deny the earth being near the center of the universe. In my mind, then, there is no strong evidence for or against.

  17. S.M. May 30, 2014 2:03 pm

    Thanks for that information, Dr. Wile. I’m interested in this because, while I have a pretty good handle on the arguments for a young earth and special creation, I really don’t know that much about creationist astronomy. Are there any other creationist cosmological models besides Humphreys & Hartnett’s that are viable, in your opinion?

    • jlwile May 30, 2014 2:32 pm

      My pleasure, S.M. I don’t know of any other creationist cosmologies that are promising.

  18. S.M. May 31, 2014 7:21 am

    So, to play devil’s advocate, am I correct in thinking that, although the Big Bang theory requires a lot of assumptions such as dark matter and the cosmological principle, the only significant competing creationist theory rests on an assumption for which there is no strong evidence either for or against?

    If that is the case (and please correct me if I’m wrong), then it seems the best thing I can tell my son who is currently interested in astronomy is that there are a lot of strong arguments for a young earth and the special creation of biological organisms, but the arguments for the age of the universe on both sides are far more nebulous (excuse the pun).

    • jlwile May 31, 2014 8:53 am

      I would put it a bit differently, S.M. The Big Bang relies on at least one assumption for which there is strong evidence against, and that’s the cosmological principle. In addition, it relies on at least one other assumption for which there is neither evidence for nor against, and that’s the presence of dark energy. In addition, to believe the Big Bang, you have to believe that roughly 70% of the universe is made up of dark energy, and another roughly 25% is made of dark matter. Thus, you have to believe that about 95% of the universe is made up of stuff we don’t understand and cannot detect.

      On the other hand, these creationist cosmologies depend on a few assumptions that we have neither evidence for nor evidence against. In addition, the creationist cosmologies do not require that the vast majority of the universe is made of material we don’t understand and can’t detect. To me, it is clear which are the more reasonable alternatives.

  19. S.M. May 31, 2014 11:00 am

    Thanks, that’s a very clarifying observation.

  20. Have one June 2, 2014 12:57 am

    ” In addition, to believe the Big Bang, you have to believe that roughly 70% of the universe is made up of dark energy, and another roughly 25% is made of dark matter. Thus, you have to believe that about 95% of the universe is made up of stuff we don’t understand and cannot detect.”

    We dont understand it yet. And we will be able to detect it…because we kinda already did, how else would we know about it? Besides that by the same logic creationism is at least equal absurd since we cant understand god (he moves in Mystirious ways and so on) and we cant detect him (at least in the last 2000 years he hasnt been seen arround)

    • jlwile June 2, 2014 9:10 am

      Have one, we have not even “kinda” detected dark energy. It is an ad hoc construction used to force the Big Bang into compliance with observations. The Big Bang originally predicted that universal expansion should decelerate over time. However, current observations (along with some assumptions are aren’t necessarily valid) indicate that universal expansion is accelerating. To “fix” this failed prediction, astrophysicists came up with the idea of “dark energy,” a mysterious force that somehow counteracts the effect of gravity. We have no idea what it even is, much less how it would be detected.

      In reference to your statement about God, I think you are confusing causes with observables. I agree that we can’t scientifically detect God. Thus, we can’t scientifically detect what the creationist believes is the cause of the universe. However, the Big Bang enthusiast is stuck with the same problem. Typically, a “quantum fluctuation” is thought to be the cause of the Big Bang. That cannot be scientifically detected, either. So both cosmologies require an undetectable cause. The creationist cosmologies, however, rely on fewer undetectable observables.

      Also, I think we can understand God, because He left us a Revelation.

  21. Daren H June 2, 2014 10:24 am

    In defense of dark matter, it should be noted that gravitational lensing of distant galaxies and calculating the gravitational effects of galaxies on each other both helps researchers detect its effects. Furthermore, places where there is absolutely no dark matter or energy have been found before.

    Likely dark matter is consisted of neutrinos, extremely undetectable. They did try to perform an experiment back in 2013:

    Its not really that conclusive, but its a good start.

    I read CMI’s Carmelian cosmology article….it was quite difficult to understand, I confess. The gist was, spacetime itself was expanding, in 5D, four-dimensional space and the fifth in time…… giving the Universe the appearance of apparent age? Dr Hartnett also gave good theological justification for it…if the Bible is completely accurate…not sure about that though.

    Will probably comment further in the future.

    • jlwile June 2, 2014 10:50 am

      Daren, I agree that there is indirect evidence for dark matter. We have no idea what it consists of, but most of it is probably not made up of neutrinos. At best, neutrinos can only be a part of hot dark matter. There has to be cold dark matter as well, and that can’t be made up of neutrinos.

      What there is no evidence for is dark energy, and that seems to me to be a problem, since the Big Bang requires that it makes up 70% of the universe!

      I am glad you read the article. I agree that it is difficult material. Nevertheless, as you can see, it shows that distant starlight is not a problem in a young universe.

  22. Ashley Haworth-roberts June 4, 2014 7:52 pm

    J Wile

    You boldly claim in a comment above: “The vast majority of the evidence points to a young earth”. Yet all I get when I click on the link is THIS blog post about soft tissues.

    This person convinced of a very ancient Earth and even more ancient universe is somewhat puzzled.

    Incidentally Questioning Answers in Genesis (non YEC Christian) has blogged again.

    • jlwile June 5, 2014 6:27 am

      Thanks for your comments, Ashley. The link that I provided regarding the evidence for a young earth is to my “age of the earth” category. I have several different posts there regarding several different observables that all point to a young earth.

      You say, “There was NO recent worldwide flood. None. And your comment is ADDING to the Bible.” I understand that you might believe that statement to be true, but I believe it to be false. I think my position has more evidence to support it.

      Thanks for letting me know that the “Questioning Answers in Genesis” blogger has posted again. I see that he is now relying on ad hominem attacks to make his case. That is unfortunate. I really don’t care to engage with people who divert from the evidence with such tactics.

  23. Ashley Haworth-roberts June 4, 2014 8:10 pm

    “the conditions of fossilization were quite different during the Flood”.

    There was NO recent worldwide flood. None. And your comment is ADDING to the Bible.

  24. Ashley Haworth-roberts June 4, 2014 8:53 pm

    I now see that your link, mentioned in my attempted comment above, was in fact to your HOME page (the soft tissue article appears because it is your latest article).
    But you did not link to any SPECIFIC past article(s).

  25. Ashley Haworth-roberts June 5, 2014 6:13 pm

    You do not appear to be engaging with the SUBSTANCE of the comments by Questioning Answers in Genesis. Something I have seen many times from young earth creationists.

    • jlwile June 6, 2014 7:48 am

      That’s interesting, Ashley, because my experience is exactly the opposite. I find that many old-earthers and evolutionists avoid substance and, like the recent article on “Questioning Answers in Genesis,” divert from it by using ad hominem attacks.

  26. Daren H June 6, 2014 4:02 am

    Dr Wile,

    I must have missed some stuff you posted to me, so
    resurrecting a dead horse no pun intended you mention an interglacial period. Yet we know interglacial periods last typically shorter than glacial periods. And we do not know how many interglacial periods have passed. Most likely only one.

    In fact 77.5bp is an ideal number. Bear in mind my original calc of 10 half lives at -5C would have yielded DNA of tens of thousands base pairs long. The interglacial that thawed the permafrost would have sped up degradation but bear in mind the average temp in Alaska is very low(a few C). The return of the glaciation would have frozen the fossil horse and dramatically slowed DNA degradation.

    Now, dinosaur DNA. Dr Schweitzer actually posted this in Nature, back in 2012(last paragraph):

    “*Update, Oct. 20, 2012, 11:24 a.m.: Mary Schweitzer emailed me to clarify a point that did not come across in her talk. “PHEX is actually found in many taxa. However proteins have thousands of antibody binding sites on them. Some antibodies that bind to epitopes shared among groups are broadly cross reactive. Ours, OB 7.3 was selected for only one epitope out of thousands, and that epitope is, so far as it has been tested by the primary researchers, only reactive to osteoctyes from birds. It has been tested against bird osteoblasts, cells on the same lineage as osteocytes, and does not react, and it does not react with osteocytes from non avian taxa tested. So it is the selective specificity of the antibody for bird osteocytes that is important. We are not saying birds and dinos are the only ones that have the protein, but because the sequence is inherited, it has different ‘shapes’ in each group and the ‘shape’ this antibody binds seems to be unique to bird osteocytes in living taxa.””

    Thus we can see, from Dr Schweitzers antibody test that its likely the protein was conserved not the DNA. Now perhaps DAPI and propidum iodide bound to surviving nitrogenous bases but the original nucleotides would be long fragmented, phosphate backbone and deoxyribose sugar separated from the bases.

    • jlwile June 6, 2014 8:10 am

      Thanks for your replies, Daren. I agree that Alaska is cold, but your calculation specifically assumed -5 C, and it is clear that the fossil was at much higher temperatures for a long time. As you say, temperature strongly affects this kind of degradation, so the idea that the DNA in this fossil could survive for more than 500,000 years well enough to be sequenced simply makes no sense, based on the measured half-life for DNA in fossils.

      Also, I think you might be a bit confused when it comes to DNA and PHEX. The antibody that Schweitzer used to test for PHEX is different from the antibody used to detect DNA. The update that you quote from is related to this sentence in the article:

      When they exposed the cell-like structures to an antibody that targets a protein called PHEX found only in bird osteocytes* (birds are descended from dinosaurs), the structures reacted, as would be expected of dinosaur osteocytes. And when the team subjected the supposed dinosaur cells to other antibodies that target DNA, the antibodies bound to material in small, specific regions inside the apparent cell membrane. (emphasis mine)

      So the update is related to the statement that PHEX is found only in bird bone cells. It is not related at all to the detection of DNA, which used a completely different antibody.

      I also think you are a bit confused on the cosmological principle. The study that found the huge-lgq specifically references a study by Yadav, Bagla, and Khandai which tries to estimate how big a single object would have to be in order for the cosmological principle to be violated. Their results say that if the cosmological principle is true, no single structure could be larger than 370 Megaparsecs. Since the huge-lgq is 1200 Megaparsecs, it does seem to refute the cosmological principle. This is why the authors say:

      In summary, the Huge-LQG presents an interesting potential challenge to the assumption of homogeneity in the cosmological principle. Its proximity to the CCLQG at the same redshift adds to that challenge.

  27. Daren H June 6, 2014 4:16 am

    Ok. I think I have posted too many comments here so this will be my last one.

    You tried to defy the cosmological principle but bear in mind it states that the Universe looks homogenous and isotopic ONLY when viewed at a large enough scale. So an isolated cluster of quasars does not refute this principle, neither does a complex cluster of galaxies.

    You are right about dark energy, but I ll ask you, which is more plausible, that an invisible energy is accelerating the Universe or spacetime itself is accelerating?

  28. Daren H June 6, 2014 11:40 am

    Ah I see. Got confused and quoted the wrong article at the wrong time, apologies. Its this one:

    “To rule out the presence of microbes, they used an antibody that binds histone proteins – which bind tightly to the DNA of everything except microbes – and got another positive result. They then ran two other histochemical stains which fluoresce when they attach to DNA molecules. These tests, too, were positive.”

    We can see here that the antibody targets histone proteins, not necessarily the DNA molecule. The protein probably survived along with the osteocytes.

    The other two chemical stains are presumably the much aforementioned propidum iodide and DAPI, nuff of that.

    The equus has been discussed too many times so I ll make the last comment about it. Average current annual highs in inner alaska are about 4-7C and annual lows are -1 to -2C.

    Average this to get about 2-3C. (this could be higher during interglacial but lets just assume).

    An interglacial period lasts about 10000 years max, (make this about say 15 half lives, assuming half life is now about 660 years)

    ice ages 100000 years or far more(add another 10 half lives in accordance with my previous calculations). You would get 25 half lives, sub this in eq:

    (o.5)^25 * 2.7 billion bp = 80 bp.

    Looks fairly reasonable, although it has some inbuilt assumptions, and note that why I say that the Equus likely only went through 1 interglacial is because the succeeding Pleistocene glacial would have deposited large sediments on it and place it into the “deep permafrost” region which never melts. I suspect the glacial periods to have average temperatures as cold or colder than -5C.

    • jlwile June 6, 2014 1:37 pm

      Thanks for the clarification, Daren, but you are still incorrect. As the article you quoted indicates, three separate stains were used. As you conjecture, one of them was propidium iodide (PI). It does not bind to histones. It is an intercalating stain that binds between the bases of DNA. Thus, the DNA has to be intact. According to this source one molecule of PI requires 4-5 base pairs intact. Obviously, to see the stain, you need a lot more than one molecule, so clearly, there were at least lots of sections of DNA that were 4-5 base pairs long minimum. Once again, it’s hard to understand how that could be the case after 65+ million years.

      I also appreciate your attempt to rationalize the horse DNA, but your calculations are way off. First, according to the old-earth paradigm, the last interglacial period (the Eemian) was not 10,000 years max. It was supposedly 16,000 years long. Thus, the interglacial period lasted for about 24 half-lives. That makes the total time worth more than 34 half-lives, which would reduce the DNA to (0.5)^34*2.7 billion = 0.16 base pairs. Thus, on average, not even one base pair set would be left intact.

      Of course, this only scratches the surface for the problems you have with keeping the DNA viable for 500,000+ years. The freeze/thaw cycle that the fossil clearly experienced would produce an enormous amount of degradation, further breaking down the DNA in a rapid fashion. Also, as the original paper says:

      Relict ice wedges below the unit indicate persistent permafrost since deposition (Supplementary Information, section 1.1), whereas the organic unit, hosting the fossil, indicates a period of permafrost degradation, or a thaw unconformity7, during a past interglacial as warm or warmer than present. (emphasis mine)

      As a result, using 2-3 C as your temperature probably doesn’t work. Also, note that 580,000 years is the supposed minimum age of the fossil. As the article says, it is supposedly between 560 and 780 thousand years old. Thus the problem is even more severe than your calculations (which we see are incorrect) allow for! Once again, then, the idea that the DNA could survive so long and still be sequenced simply doesn’t make sense based on what we know now.

  29. Daren H June 7, 2014 2:06 am

    Sigh, you are twisting my words again. I already explained…..the original phosphodiester bonds and possibly dexoyribose sugars broke down leaving only the base pairs. this by far is NOT intact DNA. This is not even an intact nucleotide!

    Even Dr Schweitzer acknowledges the DNA test is inconclusive. Only you are twisting her results to to make it appear like the dinosaur is so much younger. Whats your estimate for the rate of degradation if this dinosaur is only 4300 years old then?

    You use the Eemian interglacial,from 130000 to 114000 years ago, the second to last one, why? the paper only indicates one interglacial, they dont even know which one it was. Bear in mind the horse is at least 560000-780000 years old, how do you know it thawed during the Eemian, after 400000-500000 years of glacial deposits were now on top of it? And how would you know the freeze/thaw cycle would have induced massive DNA degradation? Bear in mind my original assumption was that the horse DIED during an interglacial.

    My calculations were being EXTREMELY modest. If the half life of DNA was 1000 years at 4-5C does it sound better?

    • jlwile June 7, 2014 7:11 am

      I am not twisting your words, Daren. I am trying to explain to you how PI and DAPI stains work. They are both intercalating stains, which means (as I have explained again and again) that the DNA must be intact for them to bind. Here, for example, is an illustration of how DAPI binds to DNA:

      As you can see, the DNA must be intact. Once again, then, since PI worked, there must have been segments of at least 4-5 base pairs intact in order for it to bind to DNA.

      I am not twisting Schweitzer’s words, either. I am simply discussing the most obvious conclusion that her data indicate. I am sure that she doesn’t agree with my conclusion, but it is the most obvious one.

      You ask what my estimate for the rate of degradation is. Since I follow the evidence, I will take (as an estimate) the measured half-life of DNA in bones, which is 521 years. Obviously, this is just a ballpark figure, but nevertheless, it gives us some idea. If that’s the case and the bone is under 5,000 years old, then that means less than 10 half-lives have passed, and the fact that the DNA is still in segments that are at least 4-5 bp long is not surprising at all. In order for this to be the case with the bone being 65+ million years old, the half-life of DNA would have to be on the order of 2 million years. That clearly makes no sense.

      I used the Eemian interglacial to indicate that your idea of an interglacial lasting 10,000 years max is simply not true, at least not if you buy into the old-earth paradigm. The freeze/thaw cycle creates ice crystals, which shear the the strands of DNA. Clearly, then, the freeze/thaw cycle will severely degrade the DNA. This is why, once again, your calculations are not modest. They are simply not realistic.

      I understand you are trying to force these results into an old-earth framework, but you can’t just pull numbers out of the air. The only measured number we have is 521 years. Certainly, the cooler the temperatures, the longer the half-life, but we have no idea what the actual effect is. In addition, you are neglecting the real-world issues, such as the freeze/thaw cycle.