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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Evolution and a potential rabbit

About five years ago, I publicly predicted that genetic science will eventually rule out the Neo-Darwinian Synthesis and the Theorum of Evolution by Natural Selection.  Now, it would appear that we have a potential mechanism for doing precisely that without needing to discover J.S. Haldane's hypothetical rabbits in the Precambrian:
Few researchers have given credence to claims that samples of dinosaur DNA have survived to the present day, but no one knew just how long it would take for genetic material to fall apart. Now, a study of fossils found in New Zealand is laying the matter to rest — and putting paid to hopes of cloning a Tyrannosaurus rex.

After cell death, enzymes start to break down the bonds between the nucleotides that form the backbone of DNA, and micro-organisms speed the decay. In the long run, however, reactions with water are thought to be responsible for most bond degradation. Groundwater is almost ubiquitous, so DNA in buried bone samples should, in theory, degrade at a set rate.

By comparing the specimens' ages and degrees of DNA degradation, the researchers calculated that DNA has a half-life of 521 years. That means that after 521 years, half of the bonds between nucleotides in the backbone of a sample would have broken; after another 521 years half of the remaining bonds would have gone; and so on.

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.
Now, cloning a dinosaur or other ancient species from theoretically nonexistent DNA would not be a directly conclusive debunking of evolution, but would be a sufficiently devastating blow to the evolutionary timelines as to render it every bit as temporally dubious as it appeared when its earliest advocates were worrying about how the time-consuming process could have taken place in only 6,000 years.

I would be interested to hear from those who seriously subscribe to the theory of evolution and learn if, given this announcement of a 521-year DNA half-life, the successful cloning of a dinosaur known to be from a historical epoch well before the 2-million year readability limit would be enough to cause them to abandon their belief in the theory.  And if not, would the discovery of rabbit fossils in the Precambrian be enough to do it?

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116 Comments:

Blogger Double Minded Man October 11, 2012 7:07 AM  

The "True Believer" is going to think that the half life is wrong if they are able to clone a dinosaur, with the concurrent thought that "Science(!) is so cool!" that it is sufficiently advanced as to be able to pull DNA from a 50 bazillion year old fossil.

Similarly, if a rabbit is found in the stomach of a t-Rex, it will simply be that they need to revise the evolutionary timeline of the rabbit. (And besides, it will be an "early" version of the rabbit, complete with artist renderings showing how it looked very different from today's rabbit.)

Blogger Dave October 11, 2012 7:08 AM  

A similar argument could be made from the blood cells and soft tissue recovered from a T-Rex femur in 2005 - could this be preserved in such a way for 65 million years?

Hmmm..

Anonymous trk October 11, 2012 7:14 AM  

Precambrian rabbits had these large fangs.....only way to kill them is with the holy hand grenade. Killer space rabbits of the Precambrian sounds like a sweet book title.

Anonymous DrTorch October 11, 2012 7:19 AM  

This doesn't seem like much of a surprise, I think the only thing new here is putting some precision on the half life.

Sealing in amber is supposed to protect genetic information from water and oxygen, thus prolonging its life. So I think the computational evolutionary biologist makes an unfair connection, or more than likely, has some context for his comment left out of the article. It is after all, still journalism.

Anonymous The Great Martini October 11, 2012 7:25 AM  

Yes, I think the Jurassic Park scenario is one where a mosquito has sucked the blood of a dinosaur and is then caught in amber. The dinosaur DNA is then cloned from an immune cell of the sucked blood (because red blood cells don't have a nucleus or DNA, if they are anything like mammals).

More generally, you just have to find that one dinosaur whose tissue was preserved in some very atypical way, like it fell in a tar pit or froze solid in a very dry place. The discovery really only has to be a one-off event.

Anonymous everybody walk the dinosaur October 11, 2012 7:47 AM  

"because red blood cells don't have a nucleus or DNA, if they are anything like mammals"

apparently camels weren't like that,(not all mammals are like that), but are merely elliptcial, not nucleated, like other lower organisms. Hence the confusion.

Anonymous Mr Green Man October 11, 2012 7:55 AM  

I'd like to see a comparison of that wasp and spider they found in the amber with their modern counterparts. From the physical appearance, they could just as easily be buzzing or crawling around today. The 100 million year date they slapped on that one almost immediately sounded like a BLS statistic.

Blogger Dave October 11, 2012 8:04 AM  

I love Jurassic Park..

Blogger mmaier2112 October 11, 2012 8:08 AM  

Dave be raciss!

Dey kilt da only black man in da movie! Damn!

Anonymous E. PERLINE October 11, 2012 8:51 AM  

So a specie that fails to adjust gets wiped out. Sounds reasonable to me.

Anonymous FrankNorman October 11, 2012 8:54 AM  

The Great Martini October 11, 2012 7:25 AM

Yes, I think the Jurassic Park scenario is one where a mosquito has sucked the blood of a dinosaur and is then caught in amber. The dinosaur DNA is then cloned from an immune cell of the sucked blood (because red blood cells don't have a nucleus or DNA, if they are anything like mammals).


I think its only mammals that have non-nucleated red blood cells. One would expect dinosaur blood to be more like that if either birds or reptiles.

But the idea of a mosquito sucking blood out of a dinosaur doesn't ring true. Were there supposed to have been mosquitoes in the Jurassic? And could one have penetrated a dinosaur's hide?

Blogger IM2L844 October 11, 2012 8:59 AM  

Precambrian rabbits would only prove that the earth is much older than we thought. When a theory is sufficiently unfalsifiable, every new development can be spun into a victory.

Blogger Nate October 11, 2012 9:16 AM  

"But the idea of a mosquito sucking blood out of a dinosaur doesn't ring true. Were there supposed to have been mosquitoes in the Jurassic? And could one have penetrated a dinosaur's hide?"

They were really big... and they had these giant fangs... and they could jump!

Anonymous VryeDenker October 11, 2012 9:22 AM  

were-mosquitoes, naturally.

Anonymous dh October 11, 2012 9:33 AM  

Is there a normal person translation for this post? It is so thickly laced with something I can't figure out what he's saying.

Anonymous Stephen J. October 11, 2012 9:33 AM  

Maybe I'm missing the point here, but all this seems to "disprove" is the possibility of new species co-opting DNA from extinct ones, once the extinct ones have been extinct long enough. Which was kind of taken as read in the theory anyway, or so I thought.

If you could find DNA viable enough to clone from before this half-life limit, all that proves is that there are particular conditions capable of extending that general half-life cycle. I don't see how this is supposed to "disprove" anything.

Anonymous revrogers October 11, 2012 9:44 AM  

Is there a normal person translation for this post? It is so thickly laced with something I can't figure out what he's saying.


"It's baby bunnies... hop hop doobity boo. They're all about love."

Anonymous harry12 October 11, 2012 9:48 AM  

.
Baby kittens!
.

Anonymous fuzzy October 11, 2012 9:49 AM  

People try to put revrogers down, but he just eats the celery in their face.

Anonymous Brian October 11, 2012 9:49 AM  

I'm not a scientist, but did this study really "prove" anything? the article is fraught with weasel words... reactions with water "are thought to be responsible"... ground water is "almost ubiquitous"... so DNA should degrade "in theory" at a set rate. The team goes on to "predict" a halflife from there.

For Vox to state that this all equals an "announcement" of a 521 year DNA halflife seems to lack his usual degree of skepticism.

Anonymous Beau October 11, 2012 9:52 AM  

There was a Precambrian rabbit
Rex said that he wanted to nab it
But he made a mistake
Fell face first in a lake
Frozen DNA soup, gotta have it

Anonymous awoled October 11, 2012 10:01 AM  

If someone manages clone a dinosaur, the next thing we'll hear is that they are trying to figure out how DNA evolved to have such a short half-life.

Blogger Taylor Kessinger October 11, 2012 10:13 AM  

For Vox to state that this all equals an "announcement" of a 521 year DNA halflife seems to lack his usual degree of skepticism.

That's pretty par for the course for this blog and anything that can be interpreted as anti-evolution.

Anonymous Mark October 11, 2012 10:18 AM  

dh - The point is the hypothetical cloning of a dinosaur. If that day comes even though the half life of DNA is 521 years then dinosaurs aren't as old as scientists make them out to be. What is more, their billions of years timelines (necessitated by TENS and philosophical materialism, one should add), will be demonstrable as bullshyte.

Anonymous Rollory October 11, 2012 10:24 AM  

What does the rate of degradation of DNA outside a living body have to do with whether evolution by natural selection actually happens?

What does the hypothesized ability to clone a dinosaur have to do with whether evolution by natural selection actually happens?

The premise in the OP looks to me like one big non sequitur. Or, to be specific, an error of logic. If it isn't, some clarification of how one leads to the other would be appreciated. Are you saying that the proposed rate of decay means DNA can not exist because it all would have degraded by now? That's so obviously nonsensical (new DNA is generated every time a cell divides) I can't believe it's the intent, but it's the only way I can reconcile "DNA decays" with "Evolutionary theory is impossible".

Blogger Giraffe October 11, 2012 10:26 AM  

The premise in the OP looks to me like one big non sequitur. Or, to be specific, an error of logic. If it isn't, some clarification of how one leads to the other would be appreciated. Are you saying that the proposed rate of decay means DNA can not exist because it all would have degraded by now? That's so obviously nonsensical (new DNA is generated every time a cell divides) I can't believe it's the intent, but it's the only way I can reconcile "DNA decays" with "Evolutionary theory is impossible".

Woosh!!!

Blogger Bob October 11, 2012 10:40 AM  

More strawmen in this post than usual.

Anonymous Mr Green Man October 11, 2012 10:43 AM  

To clarify: Two critiques of the modern TENS synthesis are:
- "Millions and billions of years" or similar numbers are always thrown around. (Never mind that this really starts to look like an attempt to generate an uncountable number of generations because that's what's required to make some of this work)
- There is a general sense that TENS is unfalsifiable because it always leads to a new dodge or weave, which makes it not real science in the sense that science is a hypothesis falsifying machine

Therefore, you have the simple observation - no great claim here, just a question:
1. Nature, which we're all told is a Peer-Reviewed Journal of Science (said like that by the members of that religion), and that peer-reviewing fixes things, published this article that says we have a DNA half life.
2. This would put a probabilistic age on any DNA sample found readable independent of any assumptions about CO2 density, etc
3. There then is the question -- if such DNA were found and cloned, and it proved to within a probability of 99.9999% (or pick whatever 9s you want) that the DNA was readable and usable --with this half life probabilistic bound - and that age was not the millions and hundreds of millions and billions of years -- would this be cause to admit that TENS is currently a bunch of hogwash, since it relies so much on the handwaving of so many years?

It's really a straightforward question: Can you accept this scenario as falsifying your theory, or is it going to be a new dodge and weave? If this 521 year half life is full of "weasel words" and is sloppy science, why is a peer-reviewed journal publishing it?

Anonymous duckman October 11, 2012 10:50 AM  

Dave
October 11, 2012 8:04 AM

I love Jurassic Park..


mmaier2112
October 11, 2012 8:08 AM

Dave be raciss!

Dey kilt da only black man in da movie! Damn!




Of course, killing off the only black man is a trope of the whole horror movie genre. Not that JP is a horror movie. (And not that there's anything wrong with that.)

Anonymous Tschafer October 11, 2012 10:54 AM  

No one has ever recovered an intact DNA strand from a dinosaur, so I'm not sure what the point is. If the point is a test that could prove the earth is not 4.5 billion years old, I can think of some that would be a lot more decisive than cloning a T-Rex.

Anonymous Eduardo October 11, 2012 11:07 AM  

I think the point is...

To clone a dinissaur takes a meaningful amount of information to be encoded in DNA.

Dinossaurs have died 60+ millions years ago.

The time above is too long to get any kind of meaningful information in the DNA.

Man clones a dinossaur.

Therefore dinossaur was alive much closer to us in time scale... Let's say 57.100 years just for the heck of it.

That is not enough time for anything to evolve from dinossaurs.

Therefore any creature we suspected that evolved from dino's, did not actually evolved from them.

Is it then fair to give up on TENS based on this failure?


___________________________


really dunno if that is what he meant to say, but it seems like the argument is something like this.

Anonymous Wendy October 11, 2012 11:25 AM  

...the article is fraught with weasel words...

Welcome to Biology. It's par for the course.

Anonymous Stilicho October 11, 2012 11:35 AM  

If the point is a test that could prove the earth is not 4.5 billion years old, I can think of some that would be a lot more decisive than cloning a T-Rex.

The age of the earth is not the issue.

Anonymous VD October 11, 2012 11:35 AM  

For Vox to state that this all equals an "announcement" of a 521 year DNA halflife seems to lack his usual degree of skepticism.

What part of this statement was hard for you to understand? "By comparing the specimens' ages and degrees of DNA degradation, the researchers calculated that DNA has a half-life of 521 years."

I should be very interested in learning how this was not an announcement of a 521-year DNA half-life. Was it actually an announcement of basketball scores? Was it a recipe for chicken parmigiano? Was it a wine recommendation?

What does the rate of degradation of DNA outside a living body have to do with whether evolution by natural selection actually happens?

Time, obviously.

What does the hypothesized ability to clone a dinosaur have to do with whether evolution by natural selection actually happens?

Do the math.

The premise in the OP looks to me like one big non sequitur. Or, to be specific, an error of logic. If it isn't, some clarification of how one leads to the other would be appreciated. Are you saying that the proposed rate of decay means DNA can not exist because it all would have degraded by now? That's so obviously nonsensical (new DNA is generated every time a cell divides) I can't believe it's the intent, but it's the only way I can reconcile "DNA decays" with "Evolutionary theory is impossible".

It's over your head. IF - and it is a big if - one were to clone a dinosaur, (or, for that matter, even successfully sequenced their DNA), and the half-life of DNA is 521 years, THEN the required timeline for evolution by natural selection is absolutely ruled out, since the dinosaurs could not have lived more than 1.5 million years ago.

And in answer to your direct question, no, I am not saying that DNA does not exist.

Blogger Taylor Kessinger October 11, 2012 11:53 AM  

I completely fail to see how the conclusion, that a cloned dinosaur would be a defeater for evolution, follows from the observation that DNA in buried bone samples has a half-life of 521 years. It is possible that DNA might be stored in some other environment.

Anonymous abba October 11, 2012 11:59 AM  

I completely fail to see how the conclusion, that a cloned dinosaur would be a defeater for evolution, follows from the observation that DNA in buried bone samples has a half-life of 521 years. It is possible that DNA might be stored in some other environment.

And the dance continues...

Anonymous aero October 11, 2012 12:00 PM  

The evolution processes of death are evolving. These very large bones they find were actually very small animals that grew larger because of water that fed their dead body's, Water temp above 5c made their bones double in size every 521 years

If the evolution in life there is evolution in death.

Anonymous Motivationman October 11, 2012 12:15 PM  

I'm not sure I understand. Would cloning a dinosaur strengthen or weaken the evolutionary account? I would figure that it would strengthen it since if dinosaur DNA in fossils is long since decayed the only place we could find it would be in traces carried by currently existing species, which would show that one species can evolve into a new one and leave genetic traces.

Either way, I really don't understand why Christians would be hostile to evolution. I actually think evolution and other science supports Genesis. You have more or less the same sequence (light/big bang->form of matter->water->water animals->land animals->man). Also it solves a lot of problems with misunderstood things in the bible.

Suppose Adam was the first "metaphysical man" with a soul. There could have been soulless man-shaped creatures that preceded him (beasts of the field). Suppose the child of a "metaphysical man" and an "animal person" would be another metaphysical man with a soul. This explains things such as where "Cain's wife" came from and eliminates the need for inbreeding of Adam and Eve's children to propagate the human race.

The story of the fall reads to me like an account of how man went from being basically an animal (hunter gatherer) to a man practicing agricultural civilization. The "agricultural revolution" and birth of civilization is dated to around the time we think the biblical account starts at 6-10k years ago. I think it is entirely plausible that God could have brought forth the various species in a sequence via the process of natural selection over a timeline of millions of years prior to that date.

Anonymous Noah B. October 11, 2012 12:19 PM  

Given that the findings in this article are correct, and that a dinosaur were somehow able to be cloned, I would not necessarily say that it was conclusive proof against TENS. It would, of course, depend on exactly how a dinosaur was able to be cloned. There may well be another avenue that no one has yet discovered that wouldn't necessarily mean that the dinosaur fossil was only a few thousand years old. There's still a lot of other evidence to suggest that dinosaur fossils are very, very old.

Some remaining possibilities for cloning a dinosaur might include using methylated DNA (the article didn't make a distinction and was probably referring only to unmethylated DNA), statistical reconstruction of the original DNA sequence based on the oligonucleotide sequences that could be expected to be found in a sample of ancient DNA (this would require many, many samples to analyze), or even more remotely, somehow reconstructing the original DNA sequence based on microscopy of templates preserved in fossils or crystals.

Blogger ajw308 October 11, 2012 12:22 PM  

The Great Martini,
In Jurassic Park, they had missing DNA and to deal with it, they borrowed strands of DNA from animals that they thought would be similar.

Now that sounds reasonable and as a plot device, it works, but what animal is similar to a T-Rex?

Dave,
That's a good one to bring up. Doesn't fit the model so it got swept under the rug.

ABBA,
Unless you're proposing that the dinosaur DNA has been stored in stasis, decoupled from time by a tachyon bubble, then covertly placed for biogenetic archaeologists to find for cloning purposes, I think the logic here applies.

Anonymous szook October 11, 2012 12:25 PM  

For the haters out there, the suggestion that a calculated half-life on the DNA molecule would be non sequitur to the discussion of TENS and it's purported historical time line is precious....just precious in light of the recovery of preserved soft tissue remains from dinosaurs world wide.

Beau...the limerick was worth the price of admission to this thread, alone....much better than Cats...

Anonymous paradox October 11, 2012 12:31 PM  

In a Jeff Goldblum voice and cadence...

God creates dinosaurs. God destroys dinosaurs. God creates man. Man destroys God. Man creates dinosaurs which destroys TENS... Whoops! God could still destroy man.

Blogger ajw308 October 11, 2012 12:33 PM  

Enter the new scientific field: Forensic Nucleotide Analysis. It's a straight forward process, analyze every molecule in the sample, exclude the ones not related to DNA, and start mapping out likely sequences. Use Synthetic Annealing to get around the problem of there being an overwhelming number of possible solutions and if there's still an overwhelming number of solutions, they'll use known similar DNA sequences as a baseline (I know, but it may work to get some grant money).

Blogger Earl October 11, 2012 12:33 PM  

God makes dinosaur. God kills dinosaur. God makes man. Man kills god. Man makes dinosaur. Dinosaur kills Darwin.

Blogger Taylor Kessinger October 11, 2012 12:35 PM  

And the dance continues...

Honestly, the way this blog's collective brain seems to shut down when evolution is a topic of discussion is worrying.

Let A be Vox, B be myself (or any of the others in this thread who have objected), and C be you.
Let X be "cloning a dinosaur from DNA", Y be "DNA is only recovered from buried bones", and Z be TENS.

A says: "X implies not-Z: so if X happened, would you accept Z is falsified?"
B says: "No, because 'X implies not-Z' assumes Y, and Y might not be true."
C drools and mashes onto his keyboard: "and the dance continues..."

Blogger ajw308 October 11, 2012 12:36 PM  

Here's the anti-TENS argument that I see in this article: We're supposed to believe that DNA spontaneously grew in an environment that destroys it?

Blogger Earl October 11, 2012 12:37 PM  

Paradox, you beat me. But mines be betterz

Anonymous paradox October 11, 2012 12:41 PM  

ajw308

The Great Martini, In Jurassic Park, they had missing DNA and to deal with it, they borrowed strands of DNA from animals that they thought would be similar.

Now that sounds reasonable and as a plot device, it works, but what animal is similar to a T-Rex?


I think that was the point of the book. It really wasn't a T-Rex, it was a made up animal that looked everyone's idea of T-Rex and not the real prehistoric animal.

Anonymous paradox October 11, 2012 12:46 PM  

Earl

Paradox, you beat me. But mines be betterz


Change it to... Dinosaur eats Darwin and I 'll concede.

Blogger Nate October 11, 2012 12:50 PM  

Astrosmith:
If you see this... look me up. I need to talk to you ASAP.

trailor73@yahoo.com

Blogger ajw308 October 11, 2012 12:53 PM  

Paradox,
My point was that they were taking DNA, as I recall they used some frog DNA, and using it. I doubt that one could predict what the result would look like till after it was produced.

And with inserted frog DNA, you may have to let the thing fully mature to see what it really looks like.

Anonymous VD October 11, 2012 12:54 PM  

Honestly, the way this blog's collective brain seems to shut down when evolution is a topic of discussion is worrying.

Let A be Vox, B be myself (or any of the others in this thread who have objected), and C be you.
Let X be "cloning a dinosaur from DNA", Y be "DNA is only recovered from buried bones", and Z be TENS.

A says: "X implies not-Z: so if X happened, would you accept Z is falsified?"
B says: "No, because 'X implies not-Z' assumes Y, and Y might not be true."
C drools and mashes onto his keyboard: "and the dance continues..."


This appears to be sailing over your head. Your objection doesn't make any sense. How could dinosaur DNA be gathered in any other way that would not similarly destroy evolution theory? Sure, if the DNA were taken from a live Tyrannosaurus Rex then Y would not hold, but I trust you see the problem with that criticism.

Moreover, what is your answer to the question if we simply assume Y? That's a perfectly logical assumption, unless you can provide some alternative delivery systems for dinosaur DNA.

Anonymous Dr. T October 11, 2012 12:58 PM  

I think the theory of evolution to be correct in principle, with some caveats regarding the presence of external factors determining the possible results, and a huge question mark for all of the contributing biochemical mechanisms. But I am pretty sure that the central process, random mutations and repeated selection resulting in speciation, is correct. From this point of view, let's look at the questions:

"Would, given this announcement of a 521-year DNA half-life, the successful cloning of a dinosaur known to be from a historical epoch well before the 2-million year readability limit, be enough to cause you to abandon your belief in the theory."

If somebody presented me with a living animal that looks like a dinosaur, walks like a dinosaur and sounds like a dinosaur, the obvious questions to ask would be:
a) Or did you use some technique not possible today, that works without original dinosaur-DNA? Like calculating the DNA-code of dinosaurs from their offspring living today, birds. Or reverse-engineer it from the way the animal is supposed to look like?
b) If not, what extraordinary conditions did allow the conservation of DNA for such long times? And is there a reliable experimental determination of the age of the source material?
c) If the source material is indeed recent, obviously some species of dinosaurs still were alive a few million years ago. Which would be very surprising, but still not disprove evolution.

So the answer to the first question is no.

"And if not, would the discovery of rabbit fossils in the Precambrian be enough to do it?"

In theory, yes. I cannot imagine any way to bring something like that together with what we know about the mechanisms and timeline of evolution. In praxis, for a single find I would assume a hoax or a fraud. Multiple discoveries by independent, reliable groups, with reliable dating of the fossils - that would probably do the trick.

Anonymous Brian October 11, 2012 1:04 PM  

"For Vox to state that this all equals an "announcement" of a 521 year DNA halflife seems to lack his usual degree of skepticism.

What part of this statement was hard for you to understand? "By comparing the specimens' ages and degrees of DNA degradation, the researchers calculated that DNA has a half-life of 521 years."

I should be very interested in learning how this was not an announcement of a 521-year DNA half-life. Was it actually an announcement of basketball scores? Was it a recipe for chicken parmigiano? Was it a wine recommendation?"


To clarify, I'm taking issue with the conclusion being drawn by both the article/researchers and by Vox from the premises indicated.

Certainly, it was an announcement of a 521-year DNA halflife in these specimins of these animals from this point in history. But as far as I could tell from the article (again, I'm not a scientist), these researchers are trying to prove that DNA buried in bone samples degrades at a "set rate" - or, to put it another way, that DNA has a set half-life regardless of circumstances. I don't think that it's reasonable to conclude that, based on the myriad assumptions the researchers admit they are making with respect to the presence of groundwater, the effects of water on the rate of degredation, and the variable age of the bones being used. Proving that the DNA in these samples has a 521 year halflife does not necessarily mean that DNA has a 521 year halflife rate of decay everywhere. Since I don't think the researchers have proven anything about the "rate" of DNA decay, I think it's irresponsible to describe the research as an "announcement of a 521-year DNA halflife."

I agree with the speculation posted elsewhere that Vox may suspend some of his analytical rigor when research "proves" a point he likes for ideological reasons. Had the result of this research been a finding that the DNA of these birds degraded at a 1 million-year halflife, I suspect Vox would have been quick to point out the limitations of the study and its applicability outside of the context shown.

Blogger JD Curtis October 11, 2012 1:06 PM  

Two quick hits re: articles I came across just this morning. Forst off, from Klinghoffer..

Why Darwinists Won't Debate, and...

What Are the Top Ten Problems with Darwinian Evolution?

Blogger Taylor Kessinger October 11, 2012 1:08 PM  

This appears to be sailing over your head. Your objection doesn't make any sense. How could dinosaur DNA be gathered in any other way that would not similarly destroy evolution theory?

Noah B., five or six posts above yours, had a few ideas.

Moreover, what is your answer to the question if we simply assume Y? That's a perfectly logical assumption, unless you can provide some alternative delivery systems for dinosaur DNA.

If we assumed Y, I guess I'd have to conclude dinosaurs lived no more than a few million years ago, the fossil record is therefore meaningless, and evolution therefore is much less likely to be true.

Anonymous TheVillageIdiotRet October 11, 2012 1:28 PM  

Just got back from the local DMV office
Holy!... st. Darwin
It was an evolutionary freak show.
I just hope these third world countries,
Haven't sent over all of their good looking people first.

DannyR

Anonymous Rollory October 11, 2012 1:29 PM  

"IF - and it is a big if - one were to clone a dinosaur, (or, for that matter, even successfully sequenced their DNA), and the half-life of DNA is 521 years, THEN the required timeline for evolution by natural selection is absolutely ruled out, since the dinosaurs could not have lived more than 1.5 million years ago."

I have no problem with this statement.

"It's over your head" isn't justified. The age commonly assigned to dinosaurs is not based on DNA, but on geology, which has no dependency on the details of evolutionary theory. Therefore the premise that one somehow does have dinosaur DNA sufficient for a clone can be possible through one of several means: 1) the commonly accepted timeframes are wrong, 2) this research concerning DNA is wrong, 3) something else currently not understood has happened.

None of which bears on heredity of traits, how and why new traits appear in populations, or what effect those traits may have on the population's fitness and ability to reproduce, which are (as I understand it) the central points behind the evolutionary idea. The timeframes assigned to evolution are descriptive, not prescriptive - they are assigned based on what appears to be indicated by the fossil record (unless one wishes to reinvent both paleontology and geology at once, but I don't have the background to judge that). Since evolution is not (as you yourself have repeatedly pointed out) a theory that can as yet make testable predictions, it can not predict the timeframes required, and therefore the timeframes necessary for clonable dinosaurs can not disprove it.

If you want to point to what I just wrote and crow about how a theory that can't be proven wrong can't be proven right either, go for it. That would be justified. But the question in the post is an error.

Anonymous Noah B. October 11, 2012 1:43 PM  

"We're supposed to believe that DNA spontaneously grew in an environment that destroys it?"

No. DNA and other macromolecules have long been believed to have originated in a reducing chemical environment, when the atmosphere was rich in compounds like ammonia and methane and oxygen was scarce.

Blogger Spacebunny October 11, 2012 1:53 PM  

No. DNA and other macromolecules have long been believed to have originated in a reducing chemical environment, when the atmosphere was rich in compounds like ammonia and methane and oxygen was scarce.

And what evidence to we have that such an environment existed? Speculation? Brilliant.

Anonymous WaterBoy October 11, 2012 1:55 PM  

Brian: "Proving that the DNA in these samples has a 521 year halflife does not necessarily mean that DNA has a 521 year halflife rate of decay everywhere."

I agree. From the article:

The bones, which were between 600 and 8,000 years old, had been recovered from three sites within 5 kilometres of each other, with nearly identical preservation conditions including a temperature of 13.1 ºC

I should very much like to see an equivalent study performed on frozen mammoth bone tissue from Siberia. 13.1 ºC (55.6ºF) is far more conducive to decay than <0ºC.

Anonymous VD October 11, 2012 1:56 PM  

"It's over your head" isn't justified.

Of course it is. We were talking about someone who couldn't figure out the connection. The fact that it might be possible to figure out a convoluted way to theoretically preserve evolutionary theory while blowing massive holes in the timeline, the fossil record, and so on doesn't change the fact that he didn't see the obvious connection.

Remember that one of the primary things for which evolutionists mock Young Earth Creationists for their supposed ignorance is the idea that dinosaurs and humans could have co-existed.

Anonymous Aeoli Pera October 11, 2012 1:57 PM  

Precambrian killer rabbits!

That movie actually exists, no joke. It was called Night of the Lepus.

Anonymous Noah B. October 11, 2012 1:58 PM  

"And what evidence to we have that such an environment existed?"

Never said there was direct evidence of this -- at least if there is, I'm unaware of it -- so admittedly it is more of an after-the-fact rationalization. We do know that oxidation does tend to destroy DNA, hence the theories of a reducing atmosphere early in Earth's history.

Anonymous VD October 11, 2012 1:59 PM  

If you want to point to what I just wrote and crow about how a theory that can't be proven wrong can't be proven right either, go for it. That would be justified. But the question in the post is an error.

I invite you to re-read the question and reconsider that conclusion. How can such an If/Then question be an error? The assumption is postulated, it isn't stated as a fact.

A lot of you appear to have completely missed that I wrote things like "would not be a directly conclusive debunking of evolution" and "given" and so forth.

Anonymous zen0 October 11, 2012 2:00 PM  

Bob October 11, 2012 10:40 AM

More strawmen in this post than usual.


3 hrs. later and Bob still has not listed any of these numerous scarecrows. Wait, maybe Bob is a straw man, desperately looking for a mate!


Anonymous RedJack October 11, 2012 2:02 PM  

Suppose Adam was the first "metaphysical man" with a soul. There could have been soulless man-shaped creatures that preceded him (beasts of the field). Suppose the child of a "metaphysical man" and an "animal person" would be another metaphysical man with a soul. This explains things such as where "Cain's wife" came from and eliminates the need for inbreeding of Adam and Eve's children to propagate the human race.

Disimilar genetic populations don't interbreed well. Most often the child is steril, if there is any offspring. Mules are an example. Beyond theology, that is one of the biggest issues with TENS. So you get one unique animal, how do you get a breeding population that is diverse and stable enough?

If you assume creation, and gradual DNA degradation from generation to generation, it makes some more sense. But inside of animal species, genetic drift is a bad thing.

Anonymous RedJack October 11, 2012 2:08 PM  

Waterboy,
A much better question is what the he$$ an elephant was doing to get frozen at 0F.

Hint, elephants need a lot of food. The picture of the mammoth living on the tundra is not that probable (not enough food). The Mastodon and mammoth would need to live in a temperate climate to have enough vegetation to survive.

What sort of thing happened to flash freeze all mammoths? And there are many examples of them being flash frozen.

Blogger ajw308 October 11, 2012 2:12 PM  

No. DNA and other macromolecules have long been believed to have originated in a reducing chemical environment, when the atmosphere was rich in compounds like ammonia and methane and oxygen was scarce.

Oxygen was scarce, yet it's a building block of guanine, cytosine and thymine. Keep going Noah.

Anonymous Hugh Ross October 11, 2012 2:12 PM  

They have known for a long time there wasn't enough time - thus their non-scientific "life on other planets", seeding thing, among others...

Anonymous Orville October 11, 2012 2:13 PM  

So Taylor presents as a biology expert yet makes a statement that we "think" with the brain stem. Hmmm...

Anonymous bw October 11, 2012 2:15 PM  

maybe Bob is a straw man, desperately looking for a mate!

Religious Scientism Gamma-Game!

Anonymous Noah B. October 11, 2012 2:16 PM  

"Oxygen was scarce, yet it's a building block of guanine, cytosine and thymine. Keep going Noah."

Scarce in the atmosphere != scare on earth. Oxygen could have come readily enough from water.

Anonymous Orville October 11, 2012 2:18 PM  

What sort of thing happened to flash freeze all mammoths? And there are many examples of them being flash frozen.

Shush. Don't ask those kinds of questions, you'll scare the children.

Anonymous JI October 11, 2012 2:21 PM  

This is kind of a pointless speculation until such cloning of a dinosaur happens, or at least viable dinosaur DNA is discovered. Surely, that is not the case, is it? Has such DNA been found?

Blogger Titus Quinctius Cincinnatus October 11, 2012 2:25 PM  

Waterboy: I should very much like to see an equivalent study performed on frozen mammoth bone tissue from Siberia. 13.1 ºC (55.6ºF) is far more conducive to decay than <0ºC.

From the article:

"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."

Don't forget Arrhenius.

Anonymous RedJack October 11, 2012 2:26 PM  

Shush. Don't ask those kinds of questions, you'll scare the children.
But it's fun. And it is something that needs to be asked.

For the DNA to be preserved, you need a very special event. For a flash freezing to occur, you need something that just doesn't happen very often, if ever, now. Yet we have many examples of it.

And for an elephant to get flash frozen, you need a total change in enviroment in a VERY rapid pace. Like minutes. This in an area that had to have enough vegetation to support the mammoth/elephant. B

But it is one of those things most scientist pretend to ignore.

Blogger Titus Quinctius Cincinnatus October 11, 2012 2:29 PM  

Noah B.: Scarce in the atmosphere != scare on earth. Oxygen could have come readily enough from water.

Yeah, but if you don't have O2 in the atmosphere, then you begin to run into problems with abiogenetically generated nucleobases caused by, among other things, exposure to UV (not shielded by ozone) which can cause dimerisation in thymine, for instance.

Blogger Titus Quinctius Cincinnatus October 11, 2012 2:37 PM  

Spacebunny: And what evidence to we have that such an environment existed? Speculation? Brilliant.

Not only is the "early reducing atmosphere" idea based on speculation (i.e. evolutionists *need* it to be true for their theories to work), but it is positively refuted by the fact that even in the earliest layers of the geological column which are said to pre-date the evolution of life on earth, we find rocks containing oxidised minerals (indicating the presence of oxygen when they formed).

Blogger Titus Quinctius Cincinnatus October 11, 2012 2:43 PM  

Taylor Kessinger: If we assumed Y, I guess I'd have to conclude dinosaurs lived no more than a few million years ago, the fossil record is therefore meaningless, and evolution therefore is much less likely to be true.

Not meaningless - just misinterpreted.

Anonymous WaterBoy October 11, 2012 2:55 PM  

RedJack: "A much better question is what the he$$ an elephant was doing to get frozen at 0F."

Well, this particular one appears to have been being eaten.

But that's beside the point. My point was that there exist specimens from a frozen environment on which the same study could be performed. If the DNA half-life turns out to be the same rate as that of the moas, it would lend support to Vox' supposition. If it turns out to be different, especially if it is significantly so, it throws the question into more doubt.

Anonymous RedJack October 11, 2012 3:02 PM  

Link locked up. But if it is the one I am thinking of, it was a recent find. If they lived in the same local as humans, and they tasted ok (which I suspect they did), they would have been hunted or butchered if the opprotunity presented itself.

I have been to the bone beds in the West (most recently Nebraska). You can see butchering marks on some of the bones. Which causes some problems with the time lines. People shouldn't have been there when the bones were dated. Of course the Poncha tribe has verbal legends of hunting them at much, much later dates.

Anonymous WaterBoy October 11, 2012 3:05 PM  

Titus Quinctius Cincinnatus: "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 key word there is prediction. That is why I would like to see an actual study, to see if their prediction is borne out or not.

"Don't forget Arrhenius."

It's not Arrhenius I'm concerned about so much as it is Newton.

Again, from the article:

Groundwater is almost ubiquitous, so DNA in buried bone samples should, in theory, degrade at a set rate.

If gravity is constantly pulling groundwater into the soil surrounding the buried bones, thereby providing this ubiquitous environment, it should follow that a frozen environment this movement of water would possibly have a different rate.

Also again, this is still just a theory. An actual study performed on mammoth bones would go a long way toward proving or disproving the theory.

Anonymous WaterBoy October 11, 2012 3:07 PM  

...in a frozen environment...

Preview's only good if you actually use it properly.

Anonymous WaterBoy October 11, 2012 3:14 PM  

Bah, completely messed that up. Let's try it again:

If gravity is constantly pulling groundwater into the soil surrounding the buried bones -- thereby providing this ubiquitous environment -- it should follow that in a frozen environment, this lack of movement of water would possibly effect a different rate.

Blogger JD Curtis October 11, 2012 3:28 PM  

What sort of thing happened to flash freeze all mammoths? And there are many examples of them being flash frozen


"It is almost impossible to exaggerate the number and distribution of the mammoth remains in northern Asia, particularly Siberia. This area of Russia stretches more than 2,000 miles along the Arctic Ocean. It is level, much like our (US) midwest, and is so thoroughly frozen due to the continual cold at this northern latitude that only a few feet of the topmost soil ever thaws out and that only for a few weeks in midsummer. It is here in this vast, forbidding waste that these creatures are found. Whole areas are filled with fossil bones. One island, Lachov, is said to be composed almost entirely of bones. In other areas, not merely bones but whole animals-bones, skin, tusks, hair, and all-are preserved so thoroughly that the creatures seem lifelike, even today. Moreover, a suprising number of mammoth carcasses and skeletons have been discovered in an upright, standing position, just how they lived. Clearly they were frozen suddenly and thus preserved nearly intact until now.



How many mammoths were there? It is impossible to calculate. But people have been in the business of collecting the ivory tusks of these creatures from the year A.D. 900 at least, and in one twenty-year period in which records were kept, tusks of at least 20,000 mammoths were taken from just one Siberian deposit. Experts estimate that as many as five million of these creatures may have perished all at one time. What known geologic or atmospheric cause could have overwhelmed them, young and old alike, buried them and then preserved them until today? The best possible explanation is a worldwide flood followed by a change in climate so drastic that these northern areas, which had been temperate before, now became arctic and thus preserved these magnificent creatures frozen in the ground." Link


Anonymous WaterBoy October 11, 2012 3:33 PM  

RedJack: "But if it is the one I am thinking of, it was a recent find."

Yes, it was a link to an article about Yuka, the partially-eaten baby mammoth carcass which was discovered in Siberia. Here's another article.

"People shouldn't have been there when the bones were dated."

Not sure which ones in Nebraska you mean, but this one is estimated to have lived about 10,000 years ago (maybe more; dating is still in progress, according to the article), which fits well within the timeline for people having lived in that region.

Anonymous Kriston October 11, 2012 3:39 PM  

JI October 11, 2012 2:21 PM

This is kind of a pointless speculation until such cloning of a dinosaur happens, or at least viable dinosaur DNA is discovered. Surely, that is not the case, is it? Has such DNA been found?

Yes it has several years ago. It was on the front page of the Weekly World News that the U.S. military was cloning dinosaurs to use as weapons. Just two weeks before they reported that Sally Ride had sex with a space alien while on the shuttle.

And you know the Weekly World News is just as accurate as Nature, right?

Blogger Titus Quinctius Cincinnatus October 11, 2012 3:41 PM  

WaterBoy: If gravity is constantly pulling groundwater into the soil surrounding the buried bones -- thereby providing this ubiquitous environment -- it should follow that in a frozen environment, this lack of movement of water would possibly effect a different rate.

Granted - but remember that degradation via hydroxyl radical (which is likely the main reaction involving water in this context) is not the only reaction taking place. The article notes the action of nucleases which also degrade the nucleotide backbone. Even at -5C, enzymic activity can take place, even if it is slowed down immensely, even in a frozen sample.

Also, let's not forget that in a hypothetical situation where you have some DNA in a bone in a cold environment, this does not necessarily mean that it will be constantly frozen. Temperatures fluctuate, often widely. Freeze-thaw cycles can be even more damaging to DNA than straight up exposure to moisture.

Anonymous DT October 11, 2012 3:48 PM  

Precambrian rabbits would only prove that the earth is much older than we thought. When a theory is sufficiently unfalsifiable, every new development can be spun into a victory.

Sort of like campaign promises?

Anonymous DT October 11, 2012 3:55 PM  

I'm not a scientist, but did this study really "prove" anything? the article is fraught with weasel words...


Sort of like global warming?

What if we have a "consensus" regarding DNA half life?

Anonymous RedJack October 11, 2012 4:02 PM  

Waterboy

The one I have in mind was found near Ft. Robinson, and dated to around 80 to 100,000 BC. A bit before the accepted timeline for people to be there.
Remember this is in Nebraska, near the borders between South Dakota and Wyoming.

There is also a mass bison kill near by that a few doctors claim had nothing to do with people. Of course, anyone who knows what a butchered cow looks like can see the cut marks, and all the heads have been split to get the brains out for tanning.

My two friends and I went there and made some poor grad student look like an idiot in front of tour group. The man spouted such nosense, and when we pointed out the obvious evidence of brain tanning in situ (some stone tools were still in place) he said "Well, my professor thinks those artifacts fell down a hole and landed in the site a thousand years after the kill."

Lets just say we had fun.

Anonymous DT October 11, 2012 4:05 PM  

A similar argument could be made from the blood cells and soft tissue recovered from a T-Rex femur in 2005 - could this be preserved in such a way for 65 million years?

I recall that discovery. And no, it could not be preserved that way for 65 million years. For anyone who is not blinded by dogma, dinosaurs did not die out that long ago.

Strictly speaking the discovery that dinosaurs roamed the Earth in relatively recent times would not disprove TENS. The counter is to say that "we" (in quotes because I'm not a TENS proponent) were simply wrong about when the dinosaurs were extinct. However, the T-Rex soft tissue throws yet another monkey wrench into TENS dating methods, timelines, and evolutionary models. As would the discovery of dinosaur DNA that could be read and/or cloned.

TENS proponents have already ignored the mathematics which clearly falsify their theory, so a simple dating error will not shake them. Whether or not life started 6,000 years ago in 6 days, or developed over millions/billions of years, the mathematics leave no room for doubt: life was created and directed. It did not spontaneously occur, nor did it evolve randomly.

Anonymous Noah B. October 11, 2012 4:09 PM  

"...but it is positively refuted by the fact that even in the earliest layers of the geological column which are said to pre-date the evolution of life on earth, we find rocks containing oxidised minerals (indicating the presence of oxygen when they formed)."

I don't know a great deal about geology or geochemistry. Can you be a bit more specific?

"Yeah, but if you don't have O2 in the atmosphere, then you begin to run into problems with abiogenetically generated nucleobases caused by, among other things, exposure to UV (not shielded by ozone) which can cause dimerisation in thymine, for instance."

As I recall, a depth of about 15 feet of sea water provides about the same level of UV attenuation as the current ozone layer does.

Blogger tz October 11, 2012 4:23 PM  

Theorum? Cp. Morgan, Adm. nelson, 10 cane or other?

What the hellix?

The nucleo-tide is turning.

I stopped believing in "Evolution" in Jr. High from a book "Evolution, Possible or Impossible?" going through biochemistry and asking why are all amino acids dextro instead of levo and how can you do primordial proteins and DNA from only one when primordial soup has only both isomers in equal amounts That may have been before Vox's earthly existence.

It's not a bird, unlike the feathered Archeopteryx, it's not a plane, like a woodworking occam's razor, it's primordial soup-er rabbit!

Probably an insectovore, butting the bugs in Bugs Bunny.

That's all folks.

Blogger Taylor Kessinger October 11, 2012 4:24 PM  

TENS proponents have already ignored the mathematics which clearly falsify their theory

Do feel free to elaborate.

Anonymous WaterBoy October 11, 2012 4:33 PM  

Titus Quinctius Cincinnatus: "degradation via hydroxyl radical (which is likely the main reaction involving water in this context)"

And don't those eventually get all used up? The way which the article mentions the necessary presence of groundwater seemed to indicate the need for replenishment of fresh water to continue the degradation process over time. In frozen ground, there is no replenishment once the existing moisture already in the bones has been consumed.

"Also, let's not forget that in a hypothetical situation where you have some DNA in a bone in a cold environment, this does not necessarily mean that it will be constantly frozen. Temperatures fluctuate, often widely. Freeze-thaw cycles can be even more damaging to DNA than straight up exposure to moisture."

This is true, and definitely had an effect on the exposed portion of the full-grown adult mammoth specimen that was cut out of the permafrost some years ago.

But even then, anything buried deeper than the thaw level will remain frozen (thaw levels vary by year, of course; one such study showed a maximum thaw depth of 1.05 meters during the studied period). One control which could be incorporated into such a DNA study would be the depth from which buried samples were taken.

The example I mentioned to RedJack -- Yuka -- was reported to have been frozen in ice for "10,000 years". But I'm not sure how accurate that is; if it's true, that would be a prime candidate for study.

Anonymous WaterBoy October 11, 2012 4:34 PM  

RedJack: "he said "Well, my professor thinks those artifacts fell down a hole and landed in the site a thousand years after the kill.""

It was Bigfoot.

Blogger bethyada October 11, 2012 10:29 PM  

The "age" of the find will get reworked to be consistent with a much younger age.

The extinction of the dinosaurs will get redated to the time of the recent find (ie. within the last million years, like crocodiles and coelacanths).

Divergence of the mammals will remain millions of years ago.

Stasis of dinosaur genetics will be invoked.

Anonymous The CronoLink October 11, 2012 10:43 PM  

^^
Another of the marvelous and elegant mysteries of Evolution, eh?

They dance but it's so funny how they stumble with one another.

Anonymous stg58 October 11, 2012 11:56 PM  

It is hilarious to watch the evolutionists twitch and shake. It is almost as if we are seeing evolution right before our eyes! Their arguments evolve constantly, taking the same outlandish direction as their theories.

Whole lot of epilepsy going on.

Anonymous stg58 October 11, 2012 11:57 PM  

Brian: "Proving that the DNA in these samples has a 521 year halflife does not necessarily mean that DNA has a 521 year halflife rate of decay everywhere."

I agree. From the article:

The bones, which were between 600 and 8,000 years old, had been recovered from three sites within 5 kilometres of each other, with nearly identical preservation conditions including a temperature of 13.1 ºC

I should very much like to see an equivalent study performed on frozen mammoth bone tissue from Siberia. 13.1 ºC (55.6ºF) is far more conducive to decay than <0ºC.


Okay, let's drop the temperature by 13.1 C and I will spot you a million years. You still lose.

Blogger Dave October 12, 2012 4:48 AM  

Actually there was another black guy in the movie, the guy at the start who had to open the Raptor cage.
They killed him off too...

Blogger Dave October 12, 2012 4:59 AM  

Brilliant.

Blogger Dave October 12, 2012 8:04 AM  

Dave be raciss!

Dey kilt da only black man in da movie! Damn!

Reply

Dave October 12, 2012 4:48 AM

Actually there was another black guy in the movie, the guy at the start who had to open the Raptor cage. They killed him off too...

Blogger Dave October 12, 2012 8:09 AM  

Didn't realise that using the 'reply' feature works fine for mobile devices in that the reply is directly below the original post but, on the web version, the reply just gets added to the end of the thread which can cause confusing responces.

So, to clarify:

Here's the anti-TENS argument that I see in this article: We're supposed to believe that DNA spontaneously grew in an environment that destroys it?

Reply

Dave October 12, 2012 4:59 AM

Brilliant.

Anonymous DrTorch October 12, 2012 9:30 AM  

Fossils in amber

http://news.yahoo.com/100-million-old-spider-attack-found-amber-193233281.html

interesting, as they've identified a species. No word whether they could recover DNA.

Anonymous daddynichol October 12, 2012 1:17 PM  

Saber Toothed spider?

Blogger Titus Quinctius Cincinnatus October 12, 2012 2:29 PM  

WaterBoy: And don't those eventually get all used up? The way which the article mentions the necessary presence of groundwater seemed to indicate the need for replenishment of fresh water to continue the degradation process over time. In frozen ground, there is no replenishment once the existing moisture already in the bones has been consumed.

If we were talking about a situation where the ground (and anything buried in it) was permanently frozen, then yes. However, keep in mind that this is very rarely the case outside of outright arctic environments, which does not describe most places, even those with tundra biomes. Just because a place is "cold" does not mean it will be permanently frozen. Even at the bottom of glaciers, the ground is often actually NOT frozen, due to insulating effects from the ice and snow above it. Hence, even in cold climates, it would be very easy to still have liquid water available.

This is true, and definitely had an effect on the exposed portion of the full-grown adult mammoth specimen that was cut out of the permafrost some years ago.

But even then, anything buried deeper than the thaw level will remain frozen (thaw levels vary by year, of course; one such study showed a maximum thaw depth of 1.05 meters during the studied period). One control which could be incorporated into such a DNA study would be the depth from which buried samples were taken.

The example I mentioned to RedJack -- Yuka -- was reported to have been frozen in ice for "10,000 years". But I'm not sure how accurate that is; if it's true, that would be a prime candidate for study.


Perhaps so. Let's not forget, however, that just because a dead animal is currently in a permafrost situation, it need not always have been. Factoring this in, I'm not sure how we could ever really design an experiment about this. How can we account for the temperature, frost, etc. 5000 years ago, when nobody recorded it, and the best we have is inference from circumstantial evidences?

Blogger Titus Quinctius Cincinnatus October 12, 2012 2:42 PM  

Noah B: I don't know a great deal about geology or geochemistry. Can you be a bit more specific?

Mind you, I'm not either, but two papers I know of that deal with this are:

E. Dimroth and M.M. Kimberley, "Precambrian Atmospheric Oxygen: Evidence in the Sedimentary Distributions of Carbon, Sulfur, Uranium and Iron", Can. J. Ear. Sci., Vol.13, pp. 1161-1185

I.B. Lambert, T.H. Donnelly, J.S.R. Dunlop, and D.I. Groves, "Stable Isotope Compositions of Early Archaean Sulphate Deposits of Probable Evaporitic and Volcanogenic Origins", Nature, Vol. 276, p. 808

As I recall, a depth of about 15 feet of sea water provides about the same level of UV attenuation as the current ozone layer does.

Incorrect. UV, especially UV-A, is able to penetrate pretty deeply into the ocean, to the point that there are some organisms that are adapted to utilise UV, since visible light at their depths is so tenuous. Basically, the farther toward the "violet" end of the spectrum, the deeper light will penetrate, which is why water at greater depths appears dark blue/violet. Keep in mind that it's also speculated that the UV load at the earth's surface in the Archean period was 31 times that of today (Cnossen, I. et al. (2007). "The habitat of early life: Solar X-ray and UV radiation at Earth's surface 4-3.5 billion years ago." J. Geophys. Research 112: E02008)

Now, some scientists like Karo Michaelian propose that because DNA and RNA absorb and dissipate UV at extremely high rates, this could serve to make early nucleic acid formation thermodynamically favourable (where it would otherwise not be), but this still doesn't explain how the component parts, as well as proteins said to have been formed abiogenetically in the oceans, would have been able to avoid destruction from either O2 or from UV and other radiation prior to forming DNA and RNA and getting it all in gear.

Anonymous Noah B. October 12, 2012 6:28 PM  

Titus, thanks for the citations. Do you have links to complete articles? I'm only able to find abstracts.

"Incorrect. UV, especially UV-A, is able to penetrate pretty deeply into the ocean, to the point that there are some organisms that are adapted to utilise UV, since visible light at their depths is so tenuous."

True, but UV-A is not mutagenic to the a degree that even approaches that of UV-C. So I really wasn't considering UV-A, only the shorter, harmful wavelengths. And as you've mentioned, many organisms utilize UV-A to their advantage, for instance, the presence of UV-A is required for some types of DNA repair processes to function correctly. Shorter wavelengths can also be damaging to DNA but these wavelengths are comparatively rare in our sun's spectrum and are attenuated readily by a variety of gases, not just ozone.

I'm not able to see enough of the paper from Cnossen to really have an opinion on it. I will say that the most widely accepted models of solar evolution that I've seen indicate that the sun's intensity quickly reached something resembling a plateau after its birth, increasing slowly but steadily during its lifetime. Based on that it would stand to reason that the sun's UV output 4 billion would have been slightly less than today's UV output. The main variable that would be left in play would be the earth's atmospheric absorption spectrum. I'd be interested to hear the resident astrophysicist's perspective on this.

Whatever you believe, the number of unanswered questions seems limitless.

Blogger Kentucky Packrat October 12, 2012 10:16 PM  

To pose a slightly different course: how can we have Neanderthal DNA that can be compared to modern man's DNA with any chance of comparison when Neanderthal DNA should be well and truly rotten based on this half-life info?

The young-earth theories place the Neanderthals within thousands of years; reasonably consistent with a 500 year half-life. Not very consistent with 30k+ years of the tested examples.

Anonymous Noah B. October 12, 2012 11:56 PM  

"To pose a slightly different course: how can we have Neanderthal DNA that can be compared to modern man's DNA with any chance of comparison when Neanderthal DNA should be well and truly rotten based on this half-life info?"

Good question. Doesn't quite seem to add up, does it?

Anonymous WaterBoy October 13, 2012 6:26 PM  

Kentucky Packrat: "how can we have Neanderthal DNA that can be compared to modern man's DNA with any chance of comparison when Neanderthal DNA should be well and truly rotten based on this half-life info?"

The half-life refers to the amount of time in which roughly half of the material would deteriorate. Half of the starting amount during the first ~521 years, then half of the remaining material during the next ~521 years, and so on. The point mentioned in the article after which no meaningful portion would remain is ~1.5 million years, which the 30K+ sample would easily fit within.

Anonymous Anonymous October 26, 2012 10:12 PM  

I thought this guy was supposed to be smart. Did Chuck Norris ghostwrite this?

Blogger Chris Pennington February 09, 2014 11:54 PM  

These comments, specifically the "I don't understand" ones, are absolutely hilarious. Keep exercising that IQ guys, you'll get it someday!

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