Sunday, December 03, 2006

Re: Lengthy evolution vs. sudden creation of life and a new take on the Genesis creation account

Clive

Thanks for your message.

[Graphic: "Scientists recover T. rex soft tissue," MSNBC - Google cache]

However, as per my policy not to get involved in private discussions on creation, evolution or design, I am posting my response to my blog CED. Normally I remove the sender's personal details, but in this case I have to refer to the web page you cite, which has your name on it.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Clive Campbell" [...]
To: Stephen E. Jones [...]
Sent: Sunday, December 03, 2006 12:59 AM
Subject: Lengthy evolution vs. sudden creation of life and a new take on the Genesis creation account

> Grace and peace, Stephen.
>
> Visited your home page and thought you might be interested in my article: Lengthy evolution vs. sudden creation of life and a new take on the Genesis creation account

I will only comment on one part of your Old Earth Creationist/Young Life (OEC/YL) position at that web page, namely that you take the discovery of "soft tissue found inside a T. rex thigh bone, encased in sandstone" as evidence that it dates from only about "2300 B.C." when "evolutionists are .... claiming it is 68 million years old":

Lengthy evolution vs. sudden creation of life and a new take on the Genesis creation account, by Clive Campbell, 10/27/05 ... Most evolutionists will mock me for saying so, but from my perspective it takes far more faith to believe in the theory of lengthy evolution of life than in the theory of sudden creation of life. To believe the former, one must believe ... inspite of such evidence as soft tissue found inside a T. rex thigh bone, encased in sandstone (evolutionists are still closed-mindedly claiming it is 68 million years old). To believe the latter--the theory of sudden creation of life (around 3970 B.C., according to biblical chronology)--one must believe ... the destruction of those civilizations about 2300 B.C., exactly the time the Bible puts the global Flood; the extinction of dinosaurs by flooding; and carbon dating of dinosaur bones in the thousands of years.Which theory ... puts forward the best evidence? ... One simple example makes my point. Which is better science: to accept the carbon dates of dinosaur bones as an indication of their young age or to throw them out just because they do not fit the theory of evolution and instead, date the bones by dating the rock around them? What if the rock is in fact millions of years old, as I do not dispute, but the dinosaur is only thousands? ...

First, you commit the fallacy of false dilemma that only "evolutionists" claim that this dinosaur (and dinosaurs in general) are millions of years old, when in fact most Old Earth Creationists (like myself) claim it also.

Second, I assume you are referring to the following discovery of "what appear to be soft tissues from a Tyrannosaurus rex fossil bone" (my emphasis) dated "68 million years ago":

T. rex fossil has 'soft tissues', BBC, 24 March, 2005 ... Dinosaur experts have extracted samples of what appear to be soft tissues from a Tyrannosaurus rex fossil bone. The US researchers tell Science magazine that the organic components resemble cells and fine blood vessels. In the hotly contested field of dino research, the work will be greeted with acclaim and disbelief in equal measure. What seems certain is that some fairly remarkable conditions must have existed at the Montana site where the T. rex died, 68 million years ago. Normally when an animal dies, worms and bugs will quickly eat up anything that is soft. Then, as the remaining bone material gets buried deeper and deeper in the mud, it gets heated, crushed and replaced by minerals - it is turned to stone. ... The form, and nothing else, is all that is left of the original. On the outside, the hindlimb fossil designated MOR (Museum of the Rockies specimen) 1125 has this appearance. But when Dr Mary Schweitzer, of North Carolina State University, dissolved away the minerals, she found something extraordinary inside. She discovered transparent, flexible filaments that resemble blood vessels. There were also traces of what look like red blood cells; and others that look like osteocytes, cells that build and maintain bone. "This is fossilised bone in the sense that it's from an extinct animal but it doesn't have a lot of the characteristics of what people would call a fossil," she told the BBC ... "It still has places where there are no secondary minerals, and it's not any more dense than modern bone; it's bone more than anything." Dr Schweitzer is not making any grand claims that these soft traces are the degraded remnants of the original material - only that they give that appearance. She and other scientists will want to establish if some hitherto unexplained fine-scale process has been at work in MOR 1125, which was pulled from the famous dinosaur rocks of eastern Montana known as the Hell Creek Formation. ..."This may not be fossilisation as we know it, of large macrostructures, but fossilisation at a molecular level," commented Dr Matthew Collins, who studies ancient bio-molecules at York University, UK. "My suspicion is this process has led to the reaction of more resistant molecules with the normal proteins and carbohydrates which make up these cellular structures, and replaced them, so that we have a very tough, resistant, very lipid-rich material - a polymer that would be very difficult to break down and characterise, but which has preserved the structure," he told the BBC. But if there are fragments, at least, of the original dinosaur molecules, their details could provide new clues to the relationship between T. rex and living species, such as birds. Inevitably, people will wonder whether the creature's DNA might also be found. But the "life molecule" degrades rapidly over thousand-year timescales, and the chances of a sample surviving from the Cretaceous are not considered seriously. "I actually don't work with DNA and my lab is not set up to do that," said Dr Schweitzer. "Our goal is more to look to see what we can find with respect to the proteins that are coded by the DNA. "To a large degree, most of the chemical studies that have been done suggest proteins are more durable than DNA and they have almost the same kind of information because they use DNA as their template." Dr Collins added: "I would agree that proteins are the molecules to go for - they are the major macromolecules in bone. "We've got some very interesting research coming out from a number of labs looking at stable isotopes (different forms of the same atom) in bones and clearly information about diets which comes from such isotopes may now be amenable from these dinosaur materials." However, he cautioned that the great age of MOR 1125 may put such detail beyond the investigating scientists. ...

If so, then although you are not a Young Earth Creationist (YEC) in that you accept that it is "an ancient universe ... fourteen ... billion years" old, however like YECs you claim that God did not create life until "around 3970 B.C." i.e. ~6,000 years ago.

Therefore your argument (and error) on this is the same as YEC's (e.g. "Dinosaur soft tissue find-a stunning rebuttal of `millions of years'," by Dr Carl Wieland, AiG-Australia, 25 March 2005) in that what YEC (and your OEC/YL position) needs is not the rare exception of a fossil found with soft tissue, but for it to be the norm.

In effect YEC is arguing an extreme version of the half-full/half-empty glass argument, except instead of 50% full and 50% empty, it is more like 99.9999% of fossils don't have any soft tissue while only 0.0001% do. So YEC (and OEC/YL) is claiming that the 0.0001% supports its position and the 99.9999% does not support the opposite Old Life positions (both evolutionist and creationist)!

And note what the above article says: "Dinosaur experts have extracted samples of what appear to be soft tissues from a ... fossil bone"; "some fairly remarkable conditions must have existed at the Montana site where the T. rex died"; "when Dr Mary Schweitzer ... dissolved away the minerals, she found something extraordinary inside"; "This is fossilised bone ... but it doesn't have a lot of the characteristics of ... a fossil"; "Dr Schweitzer is not making any grand claims that these soft traces are the degraded remnants of the original material - only that they give that appearance"; "My suspicion is this process has led to the reaction of more resistant molecules with the normal proteins and carbohydrates ... and replaced them, so that we have a very tough, resistant ... polymer that would be very difficult to break down and characterise, but which has preserved the structure" and "DNA ... degrades rapidly over thousand-year timescales, and the chances of a sample surviving from the Cretaceous are not considered seriously." (my emphasis).

>Love in the Lord,
>Clive Campbell
>[...]

Thanks. Same to you.

Stephen E. Jones, BSc (Biol).


Genesis 17:1-8. 1When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, "I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless. 2I will confirm my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers." 3Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, 4"As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. 5No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. 6I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. 7I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. 8The whole land of Canaan, where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God."

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wow, I never realized how powerful the dinosaur soft tissue argument was until I read you need to rebut it. You might want to check out the November 10, 2006 issue of science. The soft tissue appears to be dinosaur collagen which is very similar to collagen found inside ostrich legs. The idea that this protein is the result of some unheard of molecular evolution is a violation of Occam'a Razor. The simplest answer is that it is not millions of years old.

Stephen E. Jones said...

Anonymous

>Wow, I never realized how powerful the dinosaur soft tissue argument was until I read you need to rebut it. You might want to check out the November 10, 2006 issue of science. The soft tissue appears to be dinosaur collagen which is very similar to collagen found inside ostrich legs.

Thanks. I will check that out. But there is nothing much online about it, and Wikipedia is still saying that, "Interpretation of the artifact is ongoing, and the relative importance of Dr. Schweitzer's discovery is not yet clear" [http://tinyurl.com/v99pe] so I presume it is not as clear-cut as you claim.

>The idea that this protein is the result of some unheard of molecular evolution is a violation of Occam'a Razor.

That's what scientific progress can be: the discovery of "some unheard of" process.

>The simplest answer is that it is not millions of years old.

You are ignoring my main point about ~99.9999% of fossils don't have soft tissue and only ~0.0001% do, but YECs and OEC/YL think that the ~0.0001% supports their young life argument and the ~99.9999% does not support the opposite old life argument!

Stephen E. Jones

Charlie said...

Hi Stephen,
I love your site and read it regularly.
It is an excellent reference on many issues in the evolution/creation debate.
I don't engage much in YEC/OEC debates but would like to point out one thing on this issue of the possible discovery of soft tissue in dinosaur bones.
You keep saying that most fossils a few thousand years old should have soft tissue.
Is this something you would support scientifically?
Isn't it far more likely that most fossils would not have soft tissue, even if they are only thousands of years old, as opposed to tens of millions?
Also, how many fossils have been broken open and analyzed in such a manner (Mary Schweitzer's method is only a year or so old) as to discover if they do or do not have material which appears to be soft tissue?
Now that it has been found once do you think it may become an object of investigation and might be found more often?
And if it is, what will be the accepted percentage that would tell you that these fossils are not 65 million years old?
If it were actually impossible for soft tissue to survive 65 millions years, and this is indeed soft tissue, wouldn't one example, 0.0001%, be enough to refute that age?

Stephen E. Jones said...

Charlie

>Hi Stephen,
I love your site and read it regularly.
It is an excellent reference on many issues in the evolution/creation debate.

Thanks.

>I don't engage much in YEC/OEC debates but would like to point out one thing on this issue of the possible discovery of soft tissue in dinosaur bones.
You keep saying that most fossils a few thousand years old should have soft tissue.
Is this something you would support scientifically?

I could spend time researching this to "support [it] scientifically" but I don't have the time.

But it is *self-evident* (and indeed inherent in the YEC argument) that, since soft tissue in a dead organism that is buried in mud away from predators, is over time replaced by minerals (which is what fossilisation is), then the more fossils have soft tissue not replaced, the more it is evidence of recent fossilisation; and conversely the less fossils have soft tissue, the more it is evidence of ancient fossilisation.

It is always possible, due to a unique set of circumstances, that a very old fossil can have some soft tissue preserved. A retired geologist who used to work in a coal mine told me that he occasionally saw a green leaf brought up in coal that was hundreds of millions of years old (*far* older than any dinosaurs), but it immediately began to disintegrate in the air. The point is that this was so extremely rare, that it was noteworthy.

>Isn't it far more likely that most fossils would not have soft tissue, even if they are only thousands of years old, as opposed to tens of millions?

Agreed but this is not an alternative position. It is the *standard* position that, the longer the time that dead organisms have been subject to fossiliation processes of minerals replacing their soft tissues, the less likely it is that soft tissue will be found in their fossils(see above).

Therefore "fossils ... thousands of years old" would, on average, have proportionately more "soft tissue" than fossils "tens of millions" of years old.

Presumably one could graph this and it would be an exponentially decreasing percentage of soft tissue until at some point, many hundreds of millions of years ago, there would be zero percentage of soft tissue found.

On the other hand, if Young-Earth/Global Flood Geology (YEC/GFG) was true, the graph would show a fairly horizontal line `signal in the noise' because all the animals that YEC/GFG claims formed the fossil record (e.g. not pre-flood, post-flood or on the Ark), would have *all died the same time* ~8,000 years ago and their soft tissues would have all started being replaced by minerals together (see below).

>Also, how many fossils have been broken open and analyzed in such a manner (Mary Schweitzer's method is only a year or so old) as to discover if they do or do not have material which appears to be soft tissue?

It no doubt will now be the case that scientists will now look more closely at fossils to see if there are any traces of soft tissue, and no doubt they will some.

>Now that it has been found once do you think it may become an object of investigation and might be found more often?

Of course (see above).

>And if it is, what will be the accepted percentage that would tell you that these fossils are not 65 million years old?

Let's backtrack a bit. Dinosaurs may be a special case in that they were generally large animals with therefore a lot of soft tissue and large bones within which soft tissue may be more likely to be preserved. They also may have been more likely to live in swamps where, when they died, they were more likely to sink into thick anoxic mud which would be more likely to preserve soft tissue.

The point is that if the YEC/GFG theory was true, then since *all* land animals died *at the same time* ~8,000 years ago, then *all* fossils that YECs claim died in that global flood should *all* have about the *same* proportion of soft tissue to mineral replacement.

On the other hand, if the fossil record goes back billions of years (the oldest fossil traces are thought to be ~3.8 billion years old) then, there should be a *general pattern* of proportionately less soft tissue to mineral replacement found in fossils the older the fossil is. *Which in fact is the case*.

>If it were actually impossible for soft tissue to survive 65 millions years, and this is indeed soft tissue, wouldn't one example, 0.0001%, be enough to refute that age?

No scientist would claim it is "actually impossible for soft tissue to survive 65 millions years," just that it would be extremely rare. As far as I know no one is saying it to Dr. Schweitzer. And see above my example of a rare leaf found in coal far older than any dinosaur.

As I have said before, one of the problems with how YEC argues is that it tends to attack the evidence for an old Earth while keeping its young Earth alternative out of the ring. Then if there are any problems (real or imaginary) with the old Earth evidence, then YEC jumps into the ring and declares itself the winner, even though its own evidence has not been equally challenged!

The *right* way for YEC to argue (if it was actually interested in getting at the truth) would be for it to attack the evidence for an old Earth and *in tandem* present its young Earth alternative for it to be attacked. Then the theory which has the least problems overall should be the preferred one.

However, I have found that YECs don't like that reasonable method, presumably because in their heart of hearts they *know* that their theory is false!

Stephen E. Jones

Anonymous said...

"You are ignoring my main point about ~99.9999% of fossils don't have soft tissue and only ~0.0001% do, but YECs and OEC/YL think that the ~0.0001% supports their young life argument and the ~99.9999% does not support the opposite old life argument! "

How do you know 99.9999% of dinosaur fossils don't have soft tissue? Nobody has ever looked. They didn't even look for this soft tissue. It was discovered inadvertantly when they cracked open a bone to get it inside a helicopert. So who has checked the other fossils to see if collagen survived inside the other bones? Nobody.

Also, it is unlikely that any soft tissue would even survive a thousand years. So even if most dinosaurs died four thousand years ago soft tissue would be exceedingly rare. However, the odds of finding soft tissue after four thousand years is exponentially larger than finding soft tissue after 65 million years. What do you think the half-life of the amino acids in the collagen is? Do think those amino acids could survive 65 million years? I don't.

Stephen E. Jones said...

Anonymous

Most (if not all) of your points I have answered in my response to Charlie.

Otherwise, I have stated my policy in responding to comments in a comment on a previous post (see http://tinyurl.com/yblbsg) that I simply don't have the time (or inclination) to debate, so after responding to each comment once, I will usually let each commenter have the last word.

Which you have now had.

Stephen E. Jones

Anonymous said...

Dinosaur collagen is only going to extend and deflect away from THE real argument. Of course anyone with a little knowledge would realize that the animal must have died rather recently.

However THE problem facing evolution is how life got started in the first place.

Some propose that just the right chemicals came together and eventually formed a living cell.

ANY honest person who has studied first year college biology will confirm that it would be IMPOSSIBLE for chance to have formed even the simplist form of life imaginable. It is simply MUCH too complex.

Step one is how to get the little critters to use only the lift handed molucules to build their first cell.

It is beyond NORMAL reason to think that ANY random process could pull off such a feat.

And if by some miracle they could have gotten together all the left handed chemicals,the remaining multitudinous steps are increasingly impossible to have happened by chance.

Evolution theory will some day be considered dark age ignorance.

Anonymous said...

My last word:
Thanks, Stephen, for your response.

Anonymous said...

The point is that if the YEC/GFG theory was true, then since *all* land animals died *at the same time* ~8,000 years ago, then *all* fossils that YECs claim died in that global flood should *all* have about the *same* proportion of soft tissue to mineral replacement.

Of course that misrepresents the YEC position. The YEC position is that a majority of dinosaurs died in the flood and the surviving species went extinct over an unknown period of time as a result of the following enviromental changes. Note the references to the laviathon and behemoth in Job.

On the other hand, if the fossil record goes back billions of years (the oldest fossil traces are thought to be ~3.8 billion years old) then, there should be a *general pattern* of proportionately less soft tissue to mineral replacement found in fossils the older the fossil is. *Which in fact is the case*.

What? That is contradiction of your original point that 99.999% of fossils don't have soft tissue. Now fossils progressively have more soft tissue depending on the age? Do you have a reference for either of these statements?

Charlie said...

I guess I lied.
My real last word is to identify my previous last word (thanks) as mine.

Charlie