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Evidence of blood in a Tyrannosaurus bone indicates recent burial (Talk.Origins)

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Response Article
This article (Evidence of blood in a Tyrannosaurus bone indicates recent burial (Talk.Origins)) is a response to a rebuttal of a creationist claim published by Talk.Origins Archive under the title Index to Creationist Claims.

Claim CC371:

Schweitzer et al. (1997a) found evidence of hemoglobin and red blood cells in an unfossilized Tyrannosaurus rex bone. This indicates that the dinosaur died rather recently, not millions of years ago, which in turn indicates that the earth is young.


CreationWiki Response:

Even though Wieland's main source (M. Schweitzer and I. Staedter, The Real Jurassic Park, Earth, pp. 55–57, June 1997) is not easily available (and would have to be obtained at a University Library, or purchased online via a document delivery service), this article did provide close up color photos of these red (blood-like) "cells".

It also needs to be noted that only the interior parts of the bone containing the "red blood cells" and "hemoglobin" were unfossilized.

It should also be noted that Carl Wieland and David Menton replied to many of Talk.Origins's objections, including the objections found in Hurd's often cited "Dino Blood Redux". It is a must read on this issue. [1]

(Talk.Origins quotes in blue)

1. Schweitzer et al. did not find hemoglobin or red blood cells. Rather, they found evidence of degraded hemoglobin fragments and structures that might represent altered blood remnants. They emphasizd repeatedly that the results were tentative. The bone is exceptionally well preserved, so much so that it may contain some organic material from the original dinosaur, but the preservation should not be exaggerated -- meaning that the blood-like (red and round) "cells" are not fresh.

  1. The description of the "red blood cells" definitely sounds like red blood cells. Although Schweitzer et al clearly refused to believe that they are red blood cells, they have not been proved not to be red blood cells. The description of the objects favors their being red blood cells. The red blood cell interpretation is further supported by a more recent study, from which pictures of the red blood cell like objects are available.
  2. Schweitzer et al. found clear evidence of heme which is a major component of hemoglobin. Rat immune experiments also confirmed that the material is of an organic nature. And the fact that hemoglobin is most prevalent heme baring protein in bone marrow show the heme most likely be from hemoglobin. Contrary to Talk Origins' claims, Schweitzer et al. shows evidence of hemoglobin. This conclusion is supported by the red blood cell like objects, whose red color supports the hemoglobin claim if they are indeed red blood cells. In fact the only reason for not concluding that these are red blood cells and hemoglobin is the belief that dinosaurs are 65+ million years old.

2. The bone that Schweitzer and her colleagues studied was fossilized, but it was not altered by "permineralization or other diagenetic effects". Permineralization is the filling of the bone's open parts with minerals; diagenetic effects include alterations like cracking. Schweitzer commented that the bone was "not completely fossilized", but lack of permineralization does not mean unfossilized.

This is Straw Man since no one ever claimed that the bone was not fossilized, however the fact the bone was "not completely fossilized" shows that parts of it; not the entire bone; were unfossilized, specifically the part of the marrow containing "the red blood cells" and "hemoglobin".

3. An ancient age of the bone is supported by the (nonradiometric) amino racemization dating technique.

Used as an independent dating method, amino racemization dating works incredibly poorly and is regarded by scientists to be useless without calibrating it with C14 dating. Thus the claim that it is a non-radiometric dating method is deceptive. Also, it is normally used to date fossils thought to be 5000-1000 years with a maximum "date" of 200,000 years, so it seems unlikely that this dating technique would be used on dinosaur tissue. This fact plus the lack of a reference makes it unlikely that the point is based in fact. However, even if it was used to determine that the sample is over 200,000 years old, this doesn't really give any strong evidence that the bone is actually that old for several reasons:

  1. It is known to be highly sensitive to temperature, such that an error of just +/- 1 degree will cause an error in the date of +/- 25%. This point alone makes it entirely plausible that the amino acids could be completely racemized from a creationist worldview.
  2. It is known to be highly sensitive to contamination, particularly in the presence of flowing water.
  3. It is known to be highly sensitive to differences in pH such that small increase in pH will drastically increase the racemization rate.
  4. It is known to racemize faster due to several other factors, such as contact with clay, the presence of aldehydes and, the size of the macromolecule that it is in.

Combined there is no reason why the sample could not be completely racemized in a few years.

4. Soft tissues have been found on fossils tens of thousands of years old, and DNA has been recovered from samples more than 300,000 years old. If dinosaur fossils were as young as creationists claim, recovering DNA and non-bone tissues from them should be routine enough that it would not be news.

This is Circular Reasoning since it presupposes that the other fossils are actually 10's of thousands to 300,000 years old. The fact is that if dinosaur fossils are less than 10,000 years old then so are these fossils.

Due to the nature of Noah's Flood, creationists should neither expect nor be surprised by uncontaminated DNA from ancient fossils. If Noah's Flood occurred, all organisms would be subjected to boiling hot water--perfect conditions for destroying DNA very quickly. DNA can only survive hundreds or thousands of years if it is rapidly dehydrated, placed in an environment with lots of salt or frozen. This will prevent cellular enzymes and microorganisms from decaying the DNA; these processes normally destroy DNA before a few thousand years have passed (see this paper). This makes DNA from the time of Noah's flood rather rare. In addition, since we don't know the conditions of Noah's flood, like the temperature of the water, we don't know how quickly the DNA would have broken up into small sequences. If the water was hot enough, it is possible that no DNA has survived since the time of Noah's flood.

Despite this, potential gaDNA (geologically ancient DNA) has been recovered from three magnolia leaves [2] [3], a tree, a plant, a bee, two termites [4] [5], a weevil and a dinosaur eggshell--all much older than the maximum estimated time that DNA could survive, 1 million years. Critical scientists have provided several reasons for why we should be skeptical of these results, but due to the fact that this experiment has been replicated several times, it is possible that some of these sequences are endogenous.

In addition to all of this, Unfossilized dinosaur bones have been dated on about 20-30 occasions (at different times, and at different laboratories), and the "dates" obtained are all between 10,000 and 48,000 years old: the same as for unfossilized Sabretooth Tiger bones, and Neanderthal bones, and Mammoth bones. Perhaps that's because they are the same age. Come to think of it, that's also (probably) why Dinosaurs are described in detail in the Old Testament book of Job.

This is an example of Your theory does not work under my theory, so your theory must be wrong.

External Links:

Ancient DNA papers

Also see the Dinosaur Blood and Ancient DNA section of "Evidence for a Young Earth"