Dino Dating Conflicts: Carbon dating suggests less than 40,000 years old.

Started Jan 22, 2013 | Discussions thread
Don_Campbell
Contributing MemberPosts: 955
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Re: A few observations do not comprise scientific proof
In reply to steve660, Feb 3, 2013

steve660 wrote:

To all following this thread. I’m a chemist with some earth science background, and with some history of investigating creationist claims. I found this thread when trying to find out more about the dinosaur C-14 story. I have seen the YouTube presentation:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QbdH3l1UjPQ

and looked at further details provided by the group behind this story here:

http://www.dinosaurc14ages.com/carbondating.htm

There are many technical problems I could find, but one very serious one stands out. How do they know that the organic residue left behind after acid treatment is collagen? It could simply be contaminant, such as bacterial matter (“biofilm”). This was a big objection to Mary Schweitzer when she found soft tissue remnants in dino bone, so she did the appropriate tests and proved it was indeed bone protein. I can find no such tests in anything I have seen or read from the creationists in this case. There is only a brief mention on their website that the Triceratops and Hadrosaur bones, “were tested by a licensed lab for presence of collagen. Both bones did in fact contain some collagen!” What lab? How much collagen? What was the test used? Is it appropriate for this sort of material? What other things might give false positives? Will it detect collagen in the presence of contaminants? Were other things found? What is its detection limit? Without more information this assertion is worthless. Indeed the qualifier “some” makes me suspicious that they might have found either just a tiny trace of collagen, or collagen plus contaminating matter. Are they holding something back here? Nor is any proof offered, that I can find, that the organic residue left after acid extraction, and used for dating, was collagen. They appear to have merely assumed that it was. It could have been contaminant, like biofilm, or a mixture of a little collagen and a lot of biofilm.

This really matters. If what they think is collagen isn’t, but is merely contamination, then it negates all their findings at a stroke. If humic acid can get in, then so can carbonate (which exchanges with bioapatite, which can recrystallize, locking that carbonate in). And very likely so can bacteria, and other contaminants, which may account for what they think is collagen. And all this could have happened at about the same time. Once the bone became accessible to one source of contamination, it became accessible to them all. This would explain why the pMC values are similar across the different bone fractions.

It is very surprising that it took professionals, like Mary Schweitzer, years of effort, with modern facilities and exceptionally well-preserved bones to finally extract a tiny amount of badly degraded protein, but these guys, relative amateurs, are achieving it with ease.

It is even more surprising that it should be so hard, and unusual, to isolate soft tissue from dinosaur bones if they really are just a few thousand years old. Finding protein in them, and even DNA, should be routine, as it is for archaeological material. A point creationists seem to overlook.

Steve's critique could be one element of an overall peer review of this work. He has commented as a chemist and earth scientist on some of the chemistry that was said to have been applied in the sample preparation. Of course no mere abstract or oral presentation would warrant the efforts of a full peer review. That would require a full-fledged scientific manuscript to be submitted to an appropriate  scientific journal.

My opinion is that even if written up in full manuscript fashion by these authors, this work would be unlikely to have been subjected to full peer review. Because of censorship? Hardly. It would be because the work does not come from credible sources and it does not contain the biological, paleontological and geological details required to substantiate the claim. It is unfair to waste the time of credible paleontologists by asking them to provide a full-fledged review.

If they submitted a manuscript to a credible journal, I would expected the journal editor to return it to them with a letter suggesting that they need to bring it up to the standards required for evidence of age of fossil material. For such an unusual claim that would likely include submission of samples of the dinosaur material used in their study to experts in the field for examination and comment. They would need to provide detailed evidence about its collection and its handling that would permit replication to confirm their "results." My guess is that it would be highly unlikely for them to produce enough detail and evidence to convince other researchers to put time and resources into such a replication.

Don

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