Sunday, September 07, 2014

The Institute for Creation Research and their dupes, v.1.0.

The Dallas News recently ran a puff-piece lauding the Institute for Creation Research. The major reason to avoid public face-to-face debates with creationists is that they practice the technique called the “Gish Gallop” named after the late Institute for Creation Research master-debator Duane Gish. The method is to lie as rapidly as possible about as many possible things that the real scientist is overwhelmed. It was known before Duane Gish perfected it as the, “BuryThemInBullshit” method. However, in a written format this method typically falls apart. Sadly, I'll show that even in a supposedly public forum creationists cheat and lie with impunity.

During a protracted discussion in the Dallas News website a "bull-creato" emerged. A particularly outrageous false claim was made by creationist Paul Koepp, "Unfossilized organic soft tissue is found all through the geo column, found even in the Cambrian and dino DNA (small pieces of it) exist and have been documented."

He has consistently asserted this and obviously never consulted any reliable sources. I requested actual valid references which I knew don’t exist. Koepp replied with a number of vague claims about scientific papers, and more links to creationist websites. He then boasted, "Am I the one lying and being dishonest, or is there a learning curve going on here?"

It took a while to actually find and read the science journal papers alluded to, or cited in his creationist websites. My colleague Prof. James Hoffman provided some of the more difficult to find. (That link was to a very solid resource that anyone opposing the creationist anti-reality campaign should bookmark.) The creationists are lying again. What a surprise that must be!

I certainly never expected Mr. Koepp to admit he had lied. I actually doubt he is capable of recognizing his falsehoods. But the flagrant incompetence and/or dishonesty in the claim, “dino DNA (small pieces of it) exist and have been documented" should be sufficiently obviously false that any sane, rational person will see the error. The specific argument in support of his falsehood was some links to creationist websites, and one scientific article published in 1994. That article was, S. R. Woodward, N. J. Weyand, M. Bunnell, “DNA sequence from Cretaceous period bone fragments” Science 18 November 1994: 1229-1232.

In less than one year after the Woodward et al publication, their entire claim was debunked by four teams of paleontologists. One team that correctly identified Woodward’s “dino DNA” as modern human had Mr. Koepp’s favorite paleontologist, Mary Schweitzer, as a member.

SB Hedges and MH Schweitzer Science 26 May 1995: 1191-1192.

S Henikoff, Science 26 May 1995: 1192.

MW Allard, D Young, and Y Huyen, Science 26 May 1995: 1192.

H Zischler, M Hoss, O Handt, A von Haeseler, AC van der Kuyl, and J Goudsmit, Science 26 May 1995: 1192-1193.

The unknown sequences “like nothing we’ve seen before” according to Woodward were positively identified as, “the mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus, accession number X56291) and to human cytochrome b genes (Homo sapiens, accession number V00662) by Allard et al. Woodward thought his own cell’s DNA was from dinosaurs. Zischler et al sarcastically wondered maybe their human DNA had been contaminated with mysterious unknown dinosaur DNA. They concluded that in fact, Woodward had merely failed to use good lab procedure and had analyzed his laboratory's human contamination.

Here we are 20 years later, and Institute for Creation Research frauds, and their creationist dupes are still spewing lies about the discovery of "Dino DNA."

Why did these lies by Mr. Koepp go uncorrected? Because the Dallas News repeatedly banned, and deleted the correct information from their website.


Mighty Mo said...

Documentation of various dinosaur soft-tissue discoveries are quite plentiful online. The following articles seem to be from valid and reputable sources. Your thoughts?

Reisz, R.R., et al. 2013. Embryology of Early Jurassic dinosaur from China with evidence of preserved organic remains. Nature. 496 (7444): 210-214.

Manning, P. L. et al. 2009. Mineralized soft-tissue structure and chemistry in a mummified hadrosaur from the Hell Creek Formation, North Dakota (USA). Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Published online before print July 1, 2009.

Greenblatt, C. L. et al. 2004. Micrococcus luteus - Survival in Amber. Microbial Ecology. 48 (1): 120-127.

Griffith, J. D. et al. 2008. Discovery of Abundant Cellulose Microfibers Encased in 250 Ma Permian Halite: A Macromolecular Target in the Search for Life on Other Planets. Astrobiology. 8 (2): 215-228.

Krings, M. et al. 1997. Neandertal DNA Sequences and the Origin of Modern Humans. Cell. 90 (1):19-30.

Vinther, J. et al. 2008. The colour of fossil feathers. Biology Letters. 4 (5): 522-525.

The 150 million-year-old squid fossil so perfectly preserved that scientists can make ink from its ink sac. Archaeology Daily News. Posted on August 18, 2009.

Schweitzer, M. H. et al. 2005. Soft-Tissue Vessels and Cellular Preservation in Tyrannosaurus rex. Science. 307 (5717): 1952-1955.

Schweitzer, M. H. et al. 2009. Biomolecular Characterization and Protein Sequences of the Campanian Hadrosaur B. Canadensis. Science. 324 (5927): 626-631.

RBH said...

Just for the hell of it I looked up Mighty Mo's references, of which he claimed "Documentation of various dinosaur soft-tissue discoveries are quite plentiful online."

So, let's see. First, all of Mighty Mo's examples do not refer to "dinosaur soft-tissue discoveries." Neandertals are not dinosaurs.

Some specifics:
Reisz, R.R., et al. 2013, shows mineralized fossils. No soft tissue is preserved.

Manning, P. L. et al. 2009, The cue is right in the title: it's about mineralized remains.

Greenblatt, C. L. et al. 2004. Probably accurate, and illustrates the special conditions necessary for preservation of organic remains, conditions that don't apply to the other examples Might Mo produced.

Griffith, J. D. et al. 2008. Probably valid. What's preserved are tiny cellulose fibers, not DNA or other organic remains, and again illustrates the special conditions necessary for preservation of organic remains.

Krings, M. et al. 1997. Old news: Neandertal DNA has been found in a number of remains, as well as in Denisovan remains.

Vinther, J. et al. 2008. This quotation shows that carbon deposition was what was discovered, not DNA. "Energy dispersive X-ray analysis showed that the dark bands preserve a substantial amount of carbon, whereas the light bands show no carbon residue. Comparison of these oblate fossil bodies with the structure of black feathers from a living bird indicates that they are the eumelanin-containing melanosomes."

The squid article is inaccessible. A Google search turns up this article, which briefly explains the unusual taphonomic conditions that led to the preservation of the ink sac.

Schweitzer's work has still not been replicated independently, to the best of my knowledge.

So Mighty Mo's "dinosaur" claims is plain false--mineralized deposits are not "soft tissue." His other claims range from "true but trivial" to "interesting. I didn't know those conditions (amber, halite crystals) would preserve organic remains.

Gary S. Hurd said...

The first gross error made by creationists is the idea that the age of a bone is determined by its condition.

Like Mary Schweitzer, I have examined intact bones that were buried in a fine grained, iron and calcium rich, oxygen-free mud. The fine silt and clay plugged the tiny pores in the bone (called foramen) cemented over with calcium carbonate and iron sulfide deposits. The interior of the bones were open, not permineralized. One example was a cow bone from a farm pond, another was a whale bone from a paleontology site ~150,000 years old. There were differences, of course. However either could be said to have interior "soft tissue."

The second error creationists make is that "soft tissue" in a paleontology paper means "fresh meat." It is any residue of an animal that was not from bone, or shell. It does not mean "meat."

The third error is that when a paleontologist reports they have found "soft tissue" they do not mean they cracked open some rock and blood poured out. That would fit the Bible, or some other mythopoetic, but not geology or paleontology. Coal and crude oil are better examples of "soft tissue" fossils than anything promoted by creationists, or reported by Schweitzer and her group.

The average citizen does not have any personal experience with fossils. They lack university courses in chemistry, or geology. They are lied to by professional creationists like the gang at ICR.

Mighty Mo said...

Gentlemen, thank you for your comments about the short list of online articles. It is interesting to note the various opinions on what constitutes "soft tissue." Perhaps a better term might be "original remains" to distinguish from those that have been truly mineralized. Regardless of one's definition, it is simply amazing that any protein-based remnants would ever be found in specimens considered to be millions of years old.

The ancient squid ink article is a good example of this perplexing situation (thanks to RBH for tracking it down). Rather than just a brief explanation of the conditions that could have preserved the ink sac, the article documents Dr. Phil Wilby expressing "his astonishment at the quality of the fossil, and the fact that soft tissues such as muscle fibers, guts and gills had been preserved through hundreds of millions of years." Wilby is further quoted saying “It is difficult to imagine how you can have something as soft and sloppy as an ink sac fossilised in three dimension, still black, and inside a rock that is 150 million years old.”

This particular specimen certainly appears to have genuine "soft tissue" from the original creature. How long can biological tissue last, even in the best environmental conditions?

Gary Menten, Commercial Photographer said...

Excellent article, however creationists think nothing of flooding the internet with nonsense that's been debunked as such for decades and they get away with it because the average person lacks the scientific background to poke through the BS the creationists write and secondly, because the flood the net with sites that repeat the same lies word for word, proving that they are only cutting and pasting lies from one site and putting them into another.

The only answer I think, is to get to people when they are still young enough that they have not been totally brainwashed by Creationist baloney.

Scott B said...

Mighty Mo apparently does not understand the meaning of the work "fossilized." With this squid, there was no soft tissue and no liquid ink recovered. What happened is that the soft tissues were preserved from decay (e.g. in anoxic conditions) long enough for them to become mineralized, while preserving the physical forms of the original tissues. The ink sac was a chunk of rock with dark coloring. Only when they ground up the rock and extracted it with a solvent did they obtain an "ink" to write with. See, e.g.