Young Earth Creationism and Ancient DNA

DNA-geneSo how long can DNA or even cells last in the environment once an organism dies?   This has been a hot topic in the scientific literature the last 15 years.  I have read the majority of the literature on the subject partly because I teach a class called genomics and we spend quite a bit of time talking about ancient DNA (DNA that can be recovered well after the death of an organism) and genomes that have been sequenced.  There are many misconceptions about ancient DNA and soft tissue preservation both in the scientific community and especially among young earth creationists.  I have intended to explore these issues in detail on this blog but the complexity of the topic will require some additional time for writing and research.

Today, I want to just make a few quick observations about ancient DNA  studies because two articles published today caught my eye.  The first was a manuscript published in Nature which reports the oldest purported DNA from a hominid (A mitochondrial genome sequence from a hominin from Sima de los Huesos).  DNA has been obtained from bones from deep in sediments in a cave in Spain and the mitochondrial genome sequenced from that DNA. This genome is a small 16,000 bp genome that we all have in the mitochondria of our cells and we inherit only from our mothers.  That bone in the cave has been dated to 400,000 years old and was thought to be related to Neanderthal’s but the DNA sequence suggests that it might be related to the enigmatic Denisovan lineage of humans.  The Denisovan’s are known only from DNA from a single tooth and bone found in Siberia. No one knows what they looked like but they had DNA that is distinct from Neanderthal’s and all modern humans alive today.

One strand of a DNA molecule showing all the places where DNA will be chemically modified over time. Individual pieces of DNA molecules can theoritically survive hundreds of millions of years but it will be broken into many small pieces and the molecules rearranged making it impossible to determine the code of DNA. Sequencing of the code becomes more and more difficult the more the molecule is modified so even if there are 30bp fragments left it might be impossible to read that code. In the case of the 400,000 old human bone sequenced its DNA was extremely damaged and many fancy new methods of "repairing" the dna had to be employed before they could read a small portion of the code.

One strand of a DNA molecule showing all the places where DNA will be chemically modified over time. Individual pieces of DNA molecules can theoritically survive hundreds of millions of years but it will be broken into many small pieces and the molecules rearranged making it impossible to determine the code of DNA. Sequencing of the code becomes more and more difficult the more the molecule is modified so even if there are 30bp fragments left it might be impossible to read that code. In the case of the 400,000 old human bone sequenced its DNA was extremely damaged and many fancy new methods of “repairing” the dna had to be employed before they could read a small portion of the code.

The second was an article posted on the Answers in Genesis website by Elizabeth Mitchell (Iron key to preserving dinosaur soft tissue). She puts a new spin on the now familiar YEC mantra about how soft tissue preservation and even DNA preservation proves the earth must be young.   I have to give her credit for admitting that Dr. Schweitzer has come up with some compelling arguments for how soft tissues and biomolecules like collagen could be preserved for very long periods of time.  I was at a conference a few months ago where a young earth speaker actually said that tissues and DNA couldn’t survive more than a few years even under the best conditions which is in complete contradiction to the obvious evidence of DNA from thousand year old mummies and many other human bones and my own personal experience working with DNA from old plant specimens.  Mitchell, using Dr. Schweitzers research tries to turn the table on the typical young earth argument using the evidence that iron molecules are stabilizing cellular structures in fossils.   She seems to imply that young earther’s SHOULD  expect to find DNA and other biomolecules in fossils of all ages since all fossils are 5000 years or less old.

The premise of Jurassic Park was that DNA was retrieved from blood in insects trapped in amber. Repeated tests of amber dated to be millions of years old has thus far yielded no evidence of intact DNA molecules.

The premise of Jurassic Park was that DNA was retrieved from blood in insects trapped in amber. Repeated tests of amber dated to be millions of years old has thus far yielded no evidence of intact DNA molecules.

But Elizabeth Mitchell clearly hasn’t thought through the implications of ancient DNA. DNA definitely does begin to degrade after the death of a cell. So how long will it last?  It depends very much on temperature and moisture but also many other factors some of which we don’t fully understand at this time.  What we do know is that you can extract DNA from almost any modern human bones. As a result we have sequenced DNA from thousands of individual humans that have died recently to over 5000 years ago with great success.   DNA from bones that are dated to be more than 10,00 years old like Neanderthal’s have also been sequenced but the process is much harder because the DNA is degraded into very very small fragments (<100 bp and usually only 10 to 40bp) is also chemically damaged making it far more difficult to sequence accurately.   So it is hard but we have also sequenced mastodons, cave bears, and many other recently extinct organisms.  Now when you look at fossils dated to much older (a million years old or more) the DNA in those bones is so degraded and broken that it has proven impossible to sequence.

Look at the chart below. I just threw together some data that represents what we know about ancient DNA in various groups of fossils or specific famous fossils.  I have compared how old YECs think the samples are with conventional dating methods.  What you should notice and what Mitchell and others at Answers in Genesis seem to be blind to (or turn a blind eye to) is that we have obtained sequence from many hundreds of bones and teeth from organisms that are thousands of years old.  Basically anything less than 5000 years old is likely to contains some DNA unless it was preserved in a hot and wet place.  If objects that both YECs and secular scientists believe are 4000 years old can be sequenced then logically YECs should be arguing that nearly all fossils should contain some remnants of DNA and certainly they should contain other tougher biomolecules like collagen.

Comparison of ages and preservation quality of fossil DNA samples

Sample
Environmental conditions positive or negative for preservation of DNA
Quality of DNA extracted and sequenced
Young Earth Creationists assumed ages
Conventional age of samples
Yukon Alaska fossil horse
Frozen in soils below ice age permafrost – very good conditions for preserving DNA
Complete genome (several billion base pairs) has been sequenced though the DNA was fragmented into mostly 100bp of fewer fragments
About 4000 years old because it is found in sediments prior to the ice age which they assume occurred right after the Flood
500-750 thousand years ago. This is the oldest completely sequenced genome
Egyptian mummies
Hot and moist initially and then dry – very bad conditions for DNA preservation
mtDNA genomes have been sequence, most DNA is highly degraded.
2500 to 4000 years old
2500 to 6000 years old
The “hobbit” – small fossil hominid found in Indonesia
Hot and moist – very bad for DNA preservation
NO DNA yet been found in any bones
4000 years old or as soon as many could disperse from Babel to Indonesia (small size a mystery)
18,000 years old
Neanderthal bones from multiple locations
Usually in caves, cool and moist or dry.  Average conditions for DNA preservation
Entire genome has been sequenced and many samples have had DNA extracted. DNA is fragmented into small pieces and is highly damaged
4000 years old – the very first migrants from Babel to Europe and Asia
20,000 to 100,000 years old
Woolly mammoths
Frozen specimens in permafrost – very good conditions for DNA preservation
Lots of DNA preserved. Large fragments (>100 bp) are present though do contain damage.  Many sequences have been produced from many individuals
4000 years old – trapped in ice age right after the Flood
10,000 to 50,000 year old
All mammals dated to more than 1 million years old
Thousands found in many places in the world some of which are in dry cool climates which should preserve DNA fairly well
NO reliable reports of any DNA sequences or even the presence of any DNA
4000 to 4500 years old – millions of fossil bones found in layers YEC say were deposited after the Flood and thus are less than 4500 years old
1 million to 40 million years old
Ancient hominids like “Lucy” and all other dated to be 1 million years or older
Most bones are found encased in rock but some in volcanic sediments  – unknown preservation conditions on death
No DNA found to date in any ancient hominid or ancient primate bones
Less than 4000 years since they consider Homo erectus and others as fully human and thus migrated after Babel
1 to 3 million year old
Hominid bones from Spain thought to be older than Neanderthals
Found in dry caves in Spain – moderate conditions for DNA preservation
A sequence was just reported but the DNA was noted to be extremely fragmented and have massive damage making DNA sequencing very difficult.
4000 years old or less  since these bones came to be in caves sometime after man dispersed from Babel
400,000 years old
 Otzi – the frozen man from the alps
A body found frozen into a glacier and so has been cold since the person died – good conditions for preservation
Genome has been sequenced, DNA was generally good shape (long strands with light damage).  Far better DNA quality than any Neanderthal
Less than 4000 years old
5300 years old

If known samples that are thousands of years old can yield fairly good ancient DNA samples why then are bones from a cave that YECs believe must believe are 4000 years old or less yielding DNA that is horribly degraded and nearly impossible to sequence?  There are hundreds of thousands of fossils or extinct mammals that secular scientists date to be a million years old or older that young earth creationists believe were preserved in sediments laid down AFTER the Flood during a single ice age. In their model of earth’s history these fossils can’t be more than 4500 years old and many are likely less than 4000 years old.  However, bones dated more than a million years old have yet to yield any significant amounts of sequenceable DNA*.  A YEC should find this very shocking given that human bones that are 4000 years old readily yield DNA. Their model predicts that DNA should basically be present in all post-flood bones and probably even in all Noahic flood bones since they are only 5000 year old.  The abundance and quality of DNA found in bones of decreasing conventional age is not surprise to secular scientists. This is exactly what they would expect.  Bones of Neanderthal’s dated to be 30,000 years old would be expected to have highly degraded DNA compared to bones of modern humans from the same cave but found in layers above the Neanderthal bones. And this is the general trend that is observed.  YEC generally believe that all the bones in European caves were probably deposited by visitors within just a few hundred year period. They have no a priori reason to expect that the DNA quality would be very different between these bones and certainly would not expect that the Neanderthal bones should have such different sequences.

The field of ancient DNA sequencing is still young and the chart above will change in the coming years I am sure. But the striking lack of DNA from very old samples is not likely to change radically given current methods have been applied to many of these old sample with no success. This suggests the preservation in samples dated to be much older is much worse than that in young samples. YECS think all the samples are the same age. They need to explain why there should be any correlation between radiometric dating and DNA preservation at all especially since they don’t believe radiometric dating is valid.

*I expect that with improved sequencing technology we will eventually be able to generate sequences from DNAs that are well in excess of a million years.  Organisms in permafrost conditions may well yield DNA that has survived many millions of years albeit still in highly fragmented form.  Since we don’t fully understand all the mechanisms of DNA degradation it would be unwise to conclude that we will never be able to find bits in intact DNA sequence that are potentially much older. However, I think it is safe to say that such finds will be rare and require specialized preservation conditions (eg. biomocules in dino bones preserved by iron molecules as demonstrated by Dr. Schweitzer:  Schweitzer, M.H. et al., A role for iron and oxygen chemistry in preserving soft tissues, cells and molecules from deep time, Proceedings of the Royal Society, B: Biological Sciences 281(1775):20132741, 27 November 2013 | doi: 10.1098/rspb.2013.2741)

Comments

  1. Thanks for taking this on. A fascinating subject. I recently attended a lecture in which a YEC spokesman used Schweitzer’s soft tissue sample as proof that the earth is young and dinosaurs lived recently. Not a word about ancient DNA, and nothing was said about human origins.
    I look forward to reading more.

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    • Alice, yeah, the soft tissue is a favorite of YECs. It sounds so convincing to an audience. I was at a talk recently as well and the soft tissue thing was the one that everyone wanted to talk about. It was clear the speaker was completely unfamiliar with Mary Schweitzer’s original papers and was just repeating the YEC lines. He really thought cells couldn’t survive more than a few years at best. He had no idea that 4000 year old mastodons are loaded with cells.

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  2. Thanks, great argument. But could you list papers that have attempted to recover DNA from very ancient (like >1 M years)? Because the first YEC respons I expect is ‘yeah, but because of their worldview, scientists don’t look for DNA in old fossils’.
    Also, in a recent BBC documentary, Mary Schweitzer says she wants to try and find dino DNA in fossils dug up in the Gobi desert. As this place has been a desert from some 200 M years, she thinks conditions for DNA preservation are best there.

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    • Thanks for the comment. I’ll work on that list. It is a bit messy because the literature is actually full of old (late 90s and early 2000s) paper reporting DNA sequences from fossils from 1 million up to 500 million years old. Since then it has been determined that these were all contaminants with modern DNA. Since then there have been many protocols put into place to avoid these problems and the bar is set very high for anyone claiming to have found ancient DNA in anything. Regarding Schweitzer, I believe it may be possible that there are tiny remnants of DNA still preserved even in dino bones but even if there is that doesn’t mean we will get DNA sequence because that requires bases of DNA that are still attached to each other in sequence and not chemically modified to the point that they can’t be “repaired” back to a point of reading them. Reports of DNA present vs sequenced DNA are different things. I think sequencable DNA is unlikely but I never say never because there may be ways that the DNA has been modified chemically under very specific conditions that prevent it from degrading further which might allow us to read that DNA in that modified condition and infer what the original sequence was.

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  3. What a delightful resource. I’m glad I found your blog.

    As someone who is searching for answers, I welcome all manner of dialog on these issues. It’s sad that the YEC are closed to discussion. As much as Christ valued humility, it’s sad to see humility abandoned by those who say that follow Christ.

    If the YEC crowd were to follow the teachings of the Bible, fully, they would realize that a literal-only read is fallacious. For instance, 2 Cor. 3:6 warns against a literal (the “letter”) reading, because it leads to spiritual death; only the spirit (deeper or “hidden” meaning) will lead to life. Ken Ham once said, “Who do you believe: God or science.” His audience responded predictably, but they remained oblivious to the obvious false dichotomy. It’s not science versus God, but science versus Ken Ham and the YEC interpretation. One might think Ham and his fellows were being a bit arrogant, but also lazy in taking the literal approach.

    Even Christ taught with difficult parables to elicit humility and critical thinking.

    There is so much wisdom hidden in the Bible. For instance, I have found what may be a biblical timeline compatible with those in mainstream (real) science. The new date for the Flood, for instance, does match the disappearance of one species — a species the description of which matches that of the “daughters of man” in Genesis 6. A species which could very well have jeopardized God’s mission for Homo sapiens and civilization.

    With this new timeline, there’s no longer any conflict with the Bible — only a conflict with YEC interpretation of the Bible. The only real problem with this new biblical timeline is that science has some “catching up” to do. You see, first humans (the Adam tribe) come in at 10,434,134 BC — middle of the Miocene Epoch! This isn’t too compatible with most anthropologists’ take on Homo sapiens’s lineage. This is long before their supposed grandparent species even existed.

    There have been instances of outrageous Homo sapiens dates that remain unproven and controversial. It’s sad that anthropologists abandoned further investigation, like one site in Mexico back in the 60s. Geologists were giving outrageous dates for the layer using the same techniques that validated Lucy. Yet, they were completely ignored where they ruffled the feathers of the current elite’s dogma. Clovis First was another such hurdle — ego pitted against scientific progress.

    I’m currently finishing up the manuscript for a new book, “The Bible’s Hidden Wisdom, God’s Reason for Noah’s Flood.”

    http://thebibleshiddenwisdom.com/

    I’m curious if there could be a condition where DNA could survive for 1-10 million years (temperature, dryness, chemical catalyst).

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    • Hi Rod, thanks for kinds words. I’m glad that you find the blog helpful. There are a lot of unknowns with respect to DNA preservation and even tissue preservation. The technology to really probe the biochemistry of fossils has only come into its own recently. Its true that conventional wisdom saw all organic molecules as not being able to withstand time mostly because of basic chemistry tests you can do in a lab. But the real world has a way of overcoming obstacles as was discussed in Jurassic Park even. We just really never looked and rather assumed and now that scientists are looking they are finding combinations of chemical conditions in the natural environment that can protect biomolecules from destruction. The latest is this idea that iron particles can bind to protein and maybe even DNA and stabilize other bonds protecting them from the usual forms of chemical degradation. It appears that DNA in some form may be able to last for many millions of years. See my comment above were I addressed some other issues with DNA. Mostly the problem is not if some DNA can survive, its more an issue of the quality of those molecules and whether we can determine the code. After all, its the code that we are interested in from ancient organisms because that is what we can use to see how different they were.

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  4. By the way, the Jurassic Parc scenario (DNA from Jurassic musquito’s in amber) has been ruled out: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/dinosaurs/10303795/Jurassic-Park-ruled-out-dinosaur-DNA-could-not-survive-in-amber.html

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  5. ashley haworth-roberts says:

    http://www.piltdownsuperman.com/2013/12/preserving-dinosaur-soft-tissues-fact.html
    I have directed Bob to this page (as well as Joel to the above blog).
    A Question for the Cowboy: how is evidence AGAINST a very young Earth – as above – evidence FOR the Noachian Flood?

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    • ashley haworth-roberts says:

      I ask because YECs explain AWAY the fossil record of millions of years of time according to one recent ‘worldwide’ flood.

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    • The flood of Noah was recent in terms of geological time. It occurred in the region of Lake Chad in the Gurian Wet Period, also called the “Aqualithic.” The latter term was coined by British archaeologist John Sutton (Journal of Africa History 1974; Antiquity 1977). Noah was a Nilo-Saharan ruler at a time when the Sahara was wet. According to Dr Kevin White, “Over the last 10,000 years, there have been two distinct humid phases, separated by an interval of highly variable but generally drying conditions between roughly 8,000 and 7,000 years ago. Another drying trend took place after about 5,000 years ago, leading to today’s parched environment.” Noah lived during the period of the Old Kingdom (prehistoric to 3100 BC), a time of great cultural and technological achievement. This places Noah and his sons in relatively recent history, not at the dawn of human existence.

      Humans were dispersed globally well before the time of Noah. And theses populations were not destroyed during the time of Noah. Consider the following population estimates by urban center between 2500 and 2200 BC, the time when Noah’s flood would have occurred:

      Memphis, Egypt – 32,000 inhabitants
      Lagash, Iraq – 60,000 inhabitants
      Mohenjo-daro, Pakistan – 40,000 inhabitants
      Mari, Syria -50,000 inhabitants
      Baodun settlements, China – Baodun is the largest settlement, covering an area of about 373 miles. There is no evidence of destruction by flooding though all six Baodun settlements straddled the Min River in central Sichuan province. The Min is a tributary of the upper Yangtze River.

      The evidence does not support the interpretation that all the peoples of the earth were destroyed in a catastrophic global flood and that the earth was repopulated by Noah’s descendants.

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      • Alice, some interesting information. It might also be noted that Ussher’s date for Noah’s Flood (2348 BC) is wrong on numerous counts — something Ussher didn’t know back in 1650 AD. Even Sir Isaac Newton didn’t know when he came up with his similar biblical timeline, years later. For one, Egypt’s 6th Dynasty started 3 years after Ussher’s date and Sargon the Great conquered Sumer 13 years after that date. Not exactly an empty Earth. Wrong date!

        If Noah’s Flood was a worldwide event, it would have to have occurred much earlier. The Bible seems quite all right using factors to extend the biblical timeline. There are several clues which point to a likely factor, yielding us a date of 27,970 BC. Remarkably, there is one species that died out at about 28,000 BC and Genesis 6 seems to describe that species remarkably well. We even have scientific evidence of the “crime” which Noah’s Flood may have cured.

        With all of the Flood myths in various cultures worldwide, we don’t know if there may have been multiple Noah’s at that early date. I’m curious what the geneticists would have to say about a genetic bottleneck and if multiple Noah’s would greatly ameliorate that effect.

        From a geological standpoint, I wonder if a worldwide flood would even show up in the geological record if most of the water came from the “deep” instead of by rainfall.

        If Noah’s Flood was merely metaphor for something not in our vocabulary, then this is all merely an interesting academic discussion. But if Noah’s Flood was a real worldwide event which targeted one specific species or set of species, then the YEC crowd may have to rethink their biblical interpretation and their stance on DNA, death and spiritual rebirth.

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  6. ashley haworth-roberts says:

    The way in which YECs claim ‘evidence’ supports their position (when in reality they cherry pick things in isolation and normally REJECT or IGNORE reams of other evidence because they cannot make it fit their dogma) is utterly hypocritical.

    You may wish to take a look at Ken Ham’s absurd claim about ex-comet ISON in his blog for 7 Dec. If it had survived it was to have been visible ‘confirmation’ of a young universe. But now its decay and destruction is apparently “even more evidence confirming a young universe”. Yet more lies. Comets don’t lie. Creationists do.

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    • Ham is a businessman, not a scientist. He donates YEC books to my school library. I teach at a YEC high school. I’ve been cautioned twice in 6 years not to explain to students that YEC is neither scientific nor biblical. Both times, I was responding to legitimate student questions. Probably, I will not be invited back next school year. That would be my final year of teaching, but I may end up taking early retirement if I can’t find another job at age 65. Business is good for Ham. Not so good for this single, near retirement, biblical anthropologist. Nevertheless, God has always taken very good care of me and that gives me confidence to speak the truth as far as it can be verified.

      I appreciate this website so much! Hopefully, others are reading it also. I direct readers of Just Genesis to this site.

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  7. ashley haworth-roberts says:

    YEC Georgia Purdom on her Facebook page (from which she banned me after I corrected a factual error some weeks ago):
    “Dd you hear about the new “hominid” find in Spain? We reported on it last week in our News to Know feature and I was quoted on the issue by Baptist Press.
    I found it ironic that I actually agreed more with the person from The Discovery Institute (Intelligent Design organization) than the person from Reasons to Believe (old earth creation organization). Sad when those who profess Christ clearly deny the genetic, archaeological, and fossil evidence that indicates Neanderthals and others like those from Sima de los Huesos were fully human.
    http://www.bpnews.net/BPnews.asp?ID=41674

    Thus Purdom – supposedly a geneticist – glosses over (like Luskin) the DNA evidence. Why? Because it does not fit with her dogma and her pre-determined beliefs about humanity’s past (derived not from evidence but from a more than 2,000 year old sacred book). No analysis – just dogma and misleading soundbites.

    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nature12788.html

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  8. ashley haworth-roberts says:

    In this recent AiG article Elizabeth Mitchell admits:
    “Ancient DNA tends to be degraded into single-stranded fragments. Improvements in technology enabled scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Human Anthropology last year to sequence such DNA and learn more about the elusive Denisovans. That [mitochondrial] DNA evidence confirmed that Denisovans, Neanderthals, and modern humans are all related.
    http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/2013/12/16/genetic-discovery-sim
    Thus they must DENY utterly that the bones could be from a different species to Homo sapiens/Homo sapiens sapiens as otherwise evolution might start to look plausible (especially if the bones are as old as scientists say they are).
    Does the final section of the Mitchell article deny utterly that the bones could be from any creature other than our own species. Yes, of course it does!
    The very ancient bones found in a Spanish cave ‘must’ belong to ‘descendants of Noah’s family’! Science is ‘simple’ when you are a young Earth creationist – because YECs are simplistic enemies of science.
    Mitchell also writes: “In fact, the International HapMap project has found that the differences between the DNA of any two humans is remarkably small. Dr. Purdom, in a chapter entitled “Were Adam and Eve Real People” in the book How We Know the Bible Is True, volume 2, writes:
    These studies and others have shown that the difference in DNA between any two humans is amazingly low . . . only 0.1 percent. Reflecting on this very low percentage, some scientists posited, “This proportion is low compared with those of many other species, from fruit flies to chimpanzees, reflecting the recent origins of our species from a small founding population” (emphases mine). They also stated, “[Certain genetic estimates] tell us that humans vary only slightly at the DNA level and that only a small proportion of this variation separates continental populations.” That is of NO help to YEC ideologues – unless they reject the Bible and assume that whilst almost all humans were wiped out by Noah’s flood, chimpanzees totally escaped.

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  9. ashley haworth-roberts says:
  10. Clearly, YEC speakers (as any others) will be experts in their own field but not in others – we live in an age of specialization. So that they may not all be familiar with Schweitzer’s original papers – I’d say this is to be expected.
    Yet, the claim made above is that the degradation of DNA in ‘conventionally’ older material and that it can survive 5000 years quite well, implies that there is a continuity – suggesting old ages are congruent with DNA found (or not found) in fossils. Now the YEC argument was simply that a) dinosaurs are supposedly millions of years old, b) DNA only lasts thousands of years at best, ergo c) they cannot possibly be that old. To inversely argue that there are some specimen where DNA is more degraded than e.g. in mammoths, which are conventionally dated less than e.g. dinos, is something YECs would accommodate easily, i.e. by referring to local conditions of preservation. To quote from above: “Basically anything less than 5000 years old is likely to contains some DNA unless it was preserved in a hot and wet place.”
    So, of course we will find samples that have DNA which is more or less preserved – that is an obvious outcome of different climate, temperature, depth, access to oxygen, water, and maybe also the presence of iron. So I am not clear on how the above presents a challenge to the original challenge that dinosaur bones with intact DNA cannot possibly be millions of years old!
    This article goes into potential DNA age and references non-YEC papers: http://creation.com/dino-dna-bone-cells#endRef3
    Note also that C-14 was found in fossils – which is another, independent proof showing they can only be thousands but not millions of years old: http://creation.com/double-decade-dinosaur-disquiet
    The latest CREATION magazine also refers to Schweitzer’s ideas on iron as a DNA preservative and states, “even if bacteria and enzymes are stopped, the proteins and DNA will eventually succumb to ordinary chemistry, especially reactions with water, over millions of years” (Creation 36(2) 2014, p.10).
    In Schweitzer’s experiment, she could extend the life of DNA from mere days to a whopping TWO YEARS! Is that enough to show DNA can indeed survive millions of years? The question then is, is the mantra that dinosaurs lived 65 million years ago any more valid than the one that the survival of DNA indicates they lived merely thousands of years ago?

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    • Hi, thanks for your feedback and perspective on this topic. Since almost all YEC speakers/writers refer to commonly to Schweitzer’s work I do think they should be familiar with her actual writings and expect they should read them. I had read all the articles you mention in this article to prep for writing this article. Now my article was very short and simple so I could not address all of the alternative hypotheses.
      In general it is critical to understand that Schweiters and others that have biomolecules in ancient material or not claiming that the molecules they have found are just like molecules from living things but rather “like” those of living things. They are frequently the stable forms of organic products that have broken down partially. The hemoglobin found is really porphyrin which is a very stable carbon molecule that results from the breakdown of heme molecules and tells us that heme was present at one time.
      With respect to DNA there is no doubt that DNA can survive for thousands of years and so if all fossils are only thousands of years old it is not unreasonable to expect that we should be able to sequence a dinosaur. It should be surprising to a YEC that we haven’t yet and they should be spending money doing research to do so because that could be a huge boon for them.
      Finding some C14 in fossils is expected. All C14 testing will produce a C14 age because of the limits of detection of the instrument. If you measure the width a molecular with wooden yardstick you are sure to be off by several orders of magnitude and would be unwise to publish such results.

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      • Thanks – and I would agree with you that someone writing about Schweitzer’s findings should be familiar with her writings. YECs who refer to her in writing did indeed read her papers. The recent CREATION article also clearly states Schweitzer does not agree with the YEC conclusions. Yet, the presenters going to churches are often not scholars writing about these issues and since the spectrum of questions they have to address is huge I understand the difficulty for them to be familiar with all the original writings. One can, however, read the on-line material and also comment or email the authors directly to engage in more detailed discussion (I have done so myself and usually get an answer).
        As to C14, NO, you should not get a result beyond the detection limit if is something is older than, say, 30,000 years or so.
        As to intact dino DNA, it seems to me that our discussion above already indicated that DNA may still be existent but is likely damaged beyond repair even after a few thousand years. Also, from what I’ve read, you cannot reconstruct a dinosaur just from DNA since you also need other cell information, including mitochondrial DNA etc. So it seems wise not to pursue this path.

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  11. Joe Knepley says:

    Thank you very much for addressing these subjects in such a respectful manner. I am studying YEC vs. OEC arguments and evidence and must say your blog is by the most respectful, thorough, and insightful I’ve found.

    Like

Trackbacks

  1. […] blog brilliantly turns this argument around as an evidence against young-Earth creationism: Young Earth Creationism and Ancient DNA. If Noah’s flood was global and created the fossil record (something the Bible nowhere […]

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  2. […] she actually found here.) Incidentally, the absence of sequenceable DNA from dinosaur fossils is a major problem for the young earth timescale: in a 6,000 year old earth—and certainly one where Noah had dinosaurs on the Ark and where the […]

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