Thursday, April 26, 2007

Creationst Say the Darndest Things about Dinosaurs

Here are just a few of the most obvious errors in the creationist tract "Radiocarbon dating dinosaurs."

The opening paragraph claims to present some published C14 data from 1970 and inferred that these were current problems for radiocarbon dating. So the first falsehood is that a paper in 1970 on the issues regarding calibration and sample preparation has current relevance. Data from 40 years ago pretty much is useless. But let's look at them.

The creationists claim that a date of 28,000 years (28 Ka) was reported for "Sabre-toothed tiger: 28,000 years (evolution: a few million)." First, all radiocarbon dates must be reported as "radiocarbon years before present (RCYBP)" or "calibrated YBP" with reference to the calibration standard. Secondly, the age range for sabertooth "tigers," (Smilodon) extends to the early Holocene, or about 10,000 years ago. So a date of 28 Ka is entirely possible. I strongly doubt that these 40 year old data are valid, but the errors these creationists made in just one line are impressive; 1) the data are incorrectly presented, 2) the age range for Smilodon given by the creationists, "a few million," was incorrect, 3) the reported age of 28 Ka is well within the known dates for Smilodon.

The biggest con job of the opening paragraph is the implication that the improperly cited paper in Radiocarbon even presented these data as valid.

The reported "data" on unspecified "dinosaur bone" are useless as presented. What are we told about them? We are first told of bone fragments from a " Acrocanthosaurus dinosaur." There is no usable information about where or how these materials were collected, or treated nor is there any referenced accession numbers or publications that could lead to such information. Without this information the data are meaningless. We are next told about four more samples, three supposedly from the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh PA. The remaining bone is a total mystery. Even though there is a noted vertebrate paleontology museum in Pittsburgh, without giving the deaccession numbers from the museum it is impossible to know what these bones really were. There was no table giving a data summary as promised, "The table below lists these dates and those of four other samples ..." There is no table, there are no data, there is no point to this creationist gem.

Two AMS analyses were supposedly run, one at U of Arizona and one at a mystery "overseas AMS lab." One other beta decay laboratory is left a total mystery and no laboratory accession numbers of any kind are given. The beta decay samples were apparently augmented with a "coprolite" sample. All the errors and omissions related to the bones are repeated for the coprolite.

The authors of this article expose ignorance in every paragraph. One of my favorite is their incorrect use of the word "appetite."
The dating procedure used on the bones was a bio-apatite method, which was our only option at the time because of the lack of large amounts of bone protein or more reliable material. Bones were washed with dilute acetic acid, and crushed to less than 1 mm in size. The bone powder is then digested in cold dilute acetic acid with constant agitation for 24 hours to remove normal carbonates. The sample is then hydrolyzed under vacuum with HCL to dissolve bone appetite and evolve its carbon dioxide for analysis.

The word they were groping for was "apatite" which is a common bone mineral, chemicaly it is calcium phosphate. Even though they have copied some of a laboratory proceedure which used the correct term, they obviously failed to understand what it refered to or what it was.

As there are no meaningful data given, there is no point to this tract.

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