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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

It’s A Wonderful Time to Be a Young-Earth Creationist

Posted by jlwile on December 15, 2009

In 2005, Mary Schweitzer and her colleagues published an “astonishing” result – they had found soft tissue in a Tyrannosaurus rex femur.1 Given the fact that such dinosaur bones have been supposedly lying around for 65 million years or so, no one expected them to contain soft tissue. Indeed, laboratory studies seem to indicate that soft tissue decays in a matter of 50 weeks or so,2 and it was thought that proteins would break down after only 30,000 years, unless special circumstances were present.3

Even when special circumstances are present, the molecules that make up soft tissue are not supposed to last for 65 million years. A multidisciplinary approach to the problem of biomolecule decay in fossils led to the conclusion that under nearly ideal conditions, DNA should decay to the point where it becomes undetectable in just 125,000 years, and collagen (a protein) should decay to the point where it becomes undetectable in just under 3 million years. 4 Nevertheless, Schweitzer and her colleagues found collagen in a bone that is supposedly more than twenty times as old.

It is not surprising, then, that many scrambled for any explanation other than the fact that Schweitzer and her colleagues had found soft tissue and collagen in the T. rex bone. For example, some researchers tried to produce a study indicating that the soft tissue found wasn’t soft tissue at all. Instead, it was a biofilm made by bacteria.5

As much as old-earthers would want what Schweitzer and her colleagues found to be anything but soft tissue, her results are now unequivocal. First, Schweitzer has found soft tissue in another dinosaur fossil that is supposed to be 80 million years old! 6 In addition, another group has made a soft tissue find, and in my opinion, it is even more remarkable.

Maria McNamara and her colleagues were examining a salamander fossil that is supposed to be 18 million years old. 7 They were shocked to find beautifully-preserved muscle tissue on the bone. They show that the characteristics of the soft tissue are all very similar to the characteristics of the muscle tissue of modern salamanders, and the few differences that do exist are probably the result of “initial, limited decay.” Here is a part of what they write in their abstract:

The muscle is preserved organically, in three dimensions, and with the highest fidelity of morphological preservation yet documented from the fossil record…Slight differences between the fossil tissues and their counterparts in extant amphibians reflect limited degradation during fossilization…Our results provide unequivocal evidence that high-fidelity organic preservation of extremely labile tissues is not only feasible, but likely to be common. (emphasis mine)

In fact, the truly remarkable thing about this find is that the soft tissue was not even inside the bone. In Schweitzer’s finds, the soft tissue was found encased in bone, which at least would provide some level of protection from all the chemical and biological agents that work to degrade soft tissue. However, this beautifully-preserved soft tissue was sitting on top of the bone, exposed to the sediment. They say:

This therefore confirms, for the first time, to our knowledge, that high-fidelity fossilization of extremely decay-prone tissues as organic remains is not only feasible but can occur in the absence of protective encapsulating agents such as bone…

What does one make of all this? Well, as far as I can tell, these findings lead to two options:

1. There is some unknown process that is inconsistent with all the chemistry and physics we know at this time that keeps soft tissue from decaying away, even after millions of years.

or

2. These bones aren’t nearly as old as is claimed.

Those fervently committed to materialistic evolution are forced to believe option #1. However, those of us who are more open-minded on the issue can choose the more scientifically reasonable option, which is #2.

It’s a great time to be a young-earth creationist!

REFERENCES

1. Mary H. Schweitzer, Jennifer L. Wittmeyer,John R. Horner, Jan K. Toporski, “Soft-Tissue Vessels and Cellular Preservation in Tyrannosaurus rex,” Science, 307:1952-1955, 2005
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2. Amanda J. Kear, Derek E. G. Briggs and Desmond T. Donovan, “Decay and fossilization of non-mineralized tissue in coleoid cephalopods,” Palaeontology , 38:105-131, 1995
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3. Bada, J. et al. , “Preservation of key biomolecules in the fossil record: current knowledge and future challenges,” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 354:77-87, 1999
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4. Nielson-Marsh, Christina, et al. , “Biomolecules in fossil remains: Multidisciplinary approach to endurance,” The Biochemist, 12-14, June 2002
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5. Kaye, T. et al., “Dinosaurian Soft Tissues Interpreted as Bacterial Biofilms,” PLoS One., published online, July 30, 2008.
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6. Schweitzer, M.H. et al., “Biomolecular characterization and protein sequences of the Campanian hadrosaur B. canadensis”, Science 324:626–631, 2009
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7. Maria McNamara et al., “Organic Preservation of Fossil Musculature with Ultracellular Detail,” Proc. Roy Soc. B, published online October 14, 2009
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Comments

20 Responses to “It’s A Wonderful Time to Be a Young-Earth Creationist”
  1. Josiah says:

    So in plain English:
    Option one: the salamander was pickled
    Option two: the salamander was fresh?

    I wonder at how, if things did evolve, the creature could have remained that long so very unchanged compared to today’s animal?

  2. jlwile says:

    “Pickled” would not be the right word, as the pickling process would not produce structures that could last for millions of years. Pickling does make food last longer, but not for millions of years (although I think pickles taste like they are millions of years old!). Option one would be something like, “some unknown process preserved it in a way we don’t understand at all.” Also, “fresh” is not the best word for option two, as there has been some degradation. Something like “younger than advertised” would be better.

    Those who think things evolved would say that if an organism doesn’t experience much change over time, that just tells you it is already well adapted to its surroundings. They would probably say that salamanders haven’t changed much in millions of years because they haven’t needed to change in order to survive. Their previous adaptations are so good that they haven’t needed to adapt any more.

  3. Josiah says:

    Yuck. The pickling itself would probably curdle in that time! It isn’t meant to be precise but I think that’s basically what you were trying to say.

    More seriously on the second point, don’t the same people insist that evolution of their environment would have taken place, with new predators, changing climates, varying food sources, etc which weren’t as perfect or stable as salamanders. So it seems to me that if something is adapted to the one, they could not logically be perfectly adapted to the other. Of course we can’t say from fossils what changes might have occured beyond structural ones, but there surely must be evolution over x million years if evolution occurs at all!

  4. Human Ape says:

    “He is best known for the ‘Exploring Creation with…’ series of textbooks written for junior high and high school students who are being educated at home.”

    Mister, being a compulsive liar for Jeebus does not make you qualified to write textbooks for young students. You shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near children.

  5. Human Ape says:

    “However, those of us who are more open-minded on the issue”

    You’re so open-minded your brains fell out.

  6. jlwile says:

    I guess the point about pickling is that it is a well-understood chemical process. Whatever preserved soft tissue over supposedly millions of years is definitely not a well-understood process. In fact, it is a process that seems to defy chemistry as we understand it right now.

    I think what you are missing on the adaptation idea is that adapting to varying food sources, changing climates, etc., might not produce a lot of morphological changes. If a salamander has to start eating a different species of cricket (or even a different kind of insect) because of climatic changes, that wouldn’t necessarily produce a large enough morphological change to show up in a fossil. Even if the salamander had to adapt to a new water temperature, that could all be done with changes in traits like fat content and skin thickness that are very hard to track in the fossil record.

  7. jlwile says:

    Wow! The intellectual rigor of “Human Ape’s” comments is stunning!

    By the way, what qualifies me to write textbooks is that I know the science VERY well and I communicate it VERY effectively. The reason my textbooks are so wildly popular is that students who used them and then went to university are amazingly successful in their university-level science courses.

  8. Josiah says:

    “students who used them and then went to university are amazingly successful in their university-level science courses.” One person. You’re providing an awfully narrow band of “proof” data, especially coming from a scientist like you. Or it would be, except for all the others whose letters you haven’t posted on the blog.

    Thanks for that explanation though. I hadn’t really considered how hard it is to tell subtle things from something several million years old!

  9. jlwile says:

    As the post clearly says, “I get all sorts of E-MAIL and snail mail from students who have used one or more of my books and are now excelling at university.” When I get an E-MAIL from a student who is excelling at university and specifically credits one or more of my books for that success, I paste it in a Microsoft Word document. That document contains unique 132 entries. This does not include the snail mail or the comments I get when I speak at education conventions. Here is one of my favorites:

    “…I am currently a college freshman at LeTourneau University. As a homeschooled high school student, I had the privilege of using your material for Chemistry I and II, Physics, and Biology. Now, as a General Chemistry student, I have been very pleased with the excellent preparation that I received as a result of using your material for chemistry. Several weeks ago…our professor…said that he was going to recognize several students for their academic achievements in General Chemistry. I was naturally gratified to hear my name among [those] called…The other two students who were recognized are friends of mine, so I knew that both of them had been homeschooled. I also knew that one had used your high school science curriculum, but I wasn’t sure about the other. After class, I had to find out. Amazingly, the other student had also used your chemistry program in high school! What a “coincidence” that out of sixty General Chemistry students, the three students to receive awards, based upon their mid-term grades, were all homeschooled and all used the same Chemistry program! Obviously we were well prepared through your curriculum. Thank you so much for producing an excellent product!”

  10. Josiah says:

    :-)
    I do like numbers. 132 Emails says something, “all sorts of E-MAIL and snail mail” could mean anything. As I said, “it would be except for all the others whose letters you haven’t posted on the blog.” But you gave no way of knowing who who or how many in your post.

  11. Welcome back! Hope you’re well rested and ready to enter the fray again!

    Nice false dichotomy. An oldie, but a goodie.

    From the Schweitzer, 2009 abstract: “We present multiple lines of evidence that endogenous proteinaceous material is preserved in bone fragments and soft tissues from an 80-million-year-old Campanian hadrosaur, Brochylophosaurus canodensis [Museum of the Rockies (MOR) 2598]. … These data complement earlier results from Tyrannosaurus rex (MOR 1125) and confirm that molecular preservation in Cretaceous dinosaurs is not a unique event.”

    Why do you cite this paper when the authors clearly state that the samples are tens of millions of years old?

    If you could find one author (out of 16 )of this paper who believes the earth to be less than 10,000 years old, then I would gladly become a YEC myself.

  12. jlwile says:

    What fray? Constantly correcting all the errors you make is not a fray. It is an exercise in patience on my part.

    Of course this is not a false dichotomy. Since there is no known chemical way in which soft tissue can be preserved for tens of millions of years, then you either have to believe in some mystical process that contradicts what we know of chemistry and physics, or you have to admit the samples are not tens of millions of years old. You desperately want to believe in an old earth, so you are forced to believe the former. Since I am willing to follow what the data say, I don’t have to hold to such an unscientific view.

    I cite papers that contain evidence. The evidence is clear – soft tissue has been preserved, even though there is no known way this could happen over tens of millions of years. I know you don’t like such evidence, as it contradicts your cherished beliefs. As a scientist, however, I must follow the evidence, no matter where it leads.

    It seems that your conclusions are based on what others think. I really couldn’t care less what the 16 authors on this paper or any other paper (including any creationist paper) think. I care what the data say. If you wanted to have a rational worldview, you would follow the data rather than following the crowd.

  13. Thank you for your patience. It’s a false dichotomy for two reasons. Option #2 has no evidence behind it. It is simply your conjecture. You desperately want to believe in a young earth, so you are forced to create option #2.

    Option #1 – the “we don’t know yet” answer – is incredibly common in new scientific discoveries. Lots of science, especially paleontology, consists of discovery, and then figuring out how to explain it. And no, the explanation almost certainly will not require “some mystical process that contradicts what we know of chemistry and physics.” There is no evidence that such a mystical process (rich, coming from a YEC) will be required to explain the preservation. It is also a false dichotomy because rather than say “we don’t know yet,” you simply posited a mystical process in option #1.

  14. jlwile says:

    If I thought you were actually willing to learn, I would say “you’re welcome” for my patience. However, learning doesn’t seem to be high on your priority list. Nevertheless, patience is high on mine, and I will try to teach you, whether you want to learn or not.

    Of course you are wrong. It is not a false dichotomy. Option #2 has a LOT of evidence for it, as discussed extensively on this blog. Just because you close your eyes to the evidence doesn’t mean it isn’t there. It just means evidence is not important to you.

    Unlike you, I don’t desperately want to believe anything about the age of the earth. You are FORCED to believe in an ancient earth, since you fervently believe in materialistic evolution, which requires an ancient earth. Since I understand that science clearly points to a creator, I can believe in an ancient earth, a young earth, or even a middle-aged earth. As a result, I can follow the evidence. That’s something you cannot do, because of your desperate desire to believe in materialistic evolution.

    The “we don’t know yet” option is only reasonable when the data do not contradict accepted laws. Physicists did not say “we don’t know yet” about the photoelectric effect. They said, “obviously something is wrong with the Newtonian view of light” because the photoelectric effect contradicted Newtonian physics. As a result, Einstein was able to usher in the quantum revolution. I am very glad that Einstein didn’t have your close-minded view of science, or we would still be thinking that Newtonian physics is all there is and “we don’t know” why things like the photoelectric effect contradict it!

    I do agree that there is no evidence for a mystical force that inhibits soft tissue decay. Thus, since the preservation of soft tissue over tens of millions of years goes against what we know of chemistry and physics, the most scientific option is to think that the fossils are not as old as advertised.

  15. Josiah says:

    I would like to ask your opinion on something.

    Some time ago one of my homeschool books was all about how science doesn’t actually support Evolution. Now to be quite honest I didn’t much like the book (I can’t remember what it was called), and in particular one of the pieces of evidence it presented seemed to be concieved by someone who didn’t understand Evolution in the first place. It was babbling on about cooperative relationships in the animal world, and “isn’t it unlikely that they’d just appear, especially at the same time”. They gave examples such as mammals and tick birds, and termites and their cellulose-digesting bacteria. Surely according to natural selection such relationships would be exactly what would develop; birds who can claim as easy a food source as the ticks on another animal would be more likely to survive, and would addapt to that food source. The Rhino of course can live almost as well with or without the ticks, but he gets some benefit too. I fail entirely to see this kind of thing as evidence against Evolution. As to termites the smaller size may make it harder for us to grasp the situation, but presumably easier for Evolution to handle simple organisms. Again, he that can eat the very wood from the trees wins.

    So what do you think, have I missed something big, or is it a case of people on Creation’s side trying to contend with something they don’t understand?

  16. jlwile says:

    That’s an excellent question.

    I started to answer your question, and realized it would be a bit involved, so it will be the next post.

  17. “I can believe in an ancient earth, a young earth, or even a middle-aged earth.” How old do you think the earth is, and what is your evidence for that age?

  18. No, reading is no problem, wanting to search through your blog posts to see if you’ve written about it before is the problem. So thanks for the links. I’ve since discovered the Age of the Earth category, so the problem is completely gone. Thanks.

    I’ll start with “One Reason I Am Skeptical of an Ancient Earth.” Extrapolation? Really? That’s one of your reasons? In case you didn’t know, radiometric dating doesn’t use tritium, the element your one peer-reviewed article covers (and whose half-life is 10 years, not too useful for determining the age of the earth). Neither does it use manganese-54, silicon-32, nor radium-226, 3 of the 4 elements listed in Science News article based on an arvix (non-peer reviewed) paper. Chlorine-36 is mentioned, but it is only used in dating sediments and ice, not fossils or rocks.

    But more galling is calling the Science News article “strong evidence.” Excuse me, but you’re reading doesn’t appear up to snuff if you missed these quotes:

    “Most physicists are dubious.”
    “Half-lives are universal constants, as any physics textbook can attest.”
    “But, he warns, genuine-looking effects are often later revealed as statistical flukes or the result of subtle defects in measuring technique.”
    “If the sun had an effect on plutonium decay, the fluctuations would have been much more substantial than those seen in Earth-bound experiments. As a result, Cooper reasoned, Cassini should have measured substantial changes in its generator’s output. It didn’t.”
    “Meanwhile, Eric Norman of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California reanalyzed data from experiments on radioactive americium, barium, silver, titanium and tin, and found no seasonal variations, he says.”
    “Hamish Robertson of the University of Washington in Seattle. ‘There’s no physical basis for the decay rates to vary with anything, let alone with the Earth-sun distance,’ he says.”
    ” In theory and the vast majority of experiments, the half-life of a radioactive element is constant. This graph shows variations in measurements of the radioactivity of a silver isotope, probably caused by experimental error. These variations do not correlate with Earth-sun distance (curve).”

  19. jlwile says:

    Sorry, “Shooter,” but your comment got put in the spam bucket. It seems even the spam filter is trying to keep you from embarrassing yourself! Nevertheless, I think it is fun for readers to see how desperate you are, so I have restored it.

    Reading is clearly a problem for you, as the “Age of the Earth” Category is right there on the front page. Did you not understand the word “Categories,” or did you not understand the phrase “Age of the Earth?”

    You are clearly ignorant of basic nuclear physics, which is not surprising, given the level of ignorance you have displayed on other scientific topics. The process by which tritium decays is beta decay, which is fundamentally the same in all beta emitters: a neutron turns into a proton by emitting an electron and an antineutrino. Thus, the fact that tritium itself is not used in radioactive dating is irrelevant. Many of the radioactive dating processes have beta decay in them, and the underlying physics is basically the same. The effect has since been seen in other nuclei, confirming that it is quite relevant to radioactive dating (see, for example, F. Raiola, et. al., “First hint on a change of the 210Po alpha-decay half-life in the metal Cu”, Eur. Phys. J. A 32:51–53, 2007).

    Your comment also confirms that you don’t read much science, since science articles always contain comments from those who are skeptical of the results. However, experimental error is an unlikely explanation, because had you bothered to actually learn from the article, you would have found that two independent labs have seen this effect. The chance of them both making the same experimental error is quite low.

    Note that you didn’t even bother to discuss the main issue: how does one justify an extrapolation of about 100 years of observation over a timeframe of BILLIONS of years? Of course, the answer is quite simple – desperation. You desperately want to believe in an old earth so that you can cling to your faith in materialistic evolution. Your comments on this blog display that desperation for all to see. Thanks for making that point better than I ever could!

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