Soft Tissues are Back!

I told you they were conflicted.PLoS-logo

A new article is up at that repository of creationist nonsense, the Institute for Creation Research. It’s called Peer Review Fails in Soft Tissue Study, and is a follow up from an earlier article – Latest Soft Tissue Study Skirts the Issues, which intriguingly they didn’t reference in this article, which is unusual – which I covered in Soft Tissues and Logical Fallacies a fortnight ago. A quick summary of the situation as of then is in order:

Palaeontologist Mary Higby Schweitzer has been investigating the existence of dinosaur soft tissue for some time now, and she now seems to quite definitely have found it. The theoretical models we have at the moment tell us that the tissue found would decay in much less time than the amount of time the fossil has been in the ground. A recent study by Schweitzer and colleagues in PLoS ONE, Dinosaur Peptides Suggest Mechanisms of Protein Survival, is about how the proteins could have survived the time. Creationists are conflicted. They naturally want the soft tissues to be there, so they can milk them for all they’re worth, but they don’t like it that Schweitzer is now trying to show how the models could be wrong. As I wrote at the time:

This is in contrast with the last DpSU, which was positively ecstatic that the models (this time of galaxy distribution) were slightly off the observed reality.

I hope you can see here that the ICR quite definitely has an overriding agenda. In a situation where the models don’t fit the data, the one that the ICR will support is the one that fit’s their point of view, no matter the situation.

Brian Thomas, the author of the first ICR article, attacked Dr Schweitzer for an alleged Logical fallacy, claiming that she was assuming that the fossils and collagen (the ‘soft tissue’ found) were “millions of years old”, and was then demonstrating that they could be millions of years old, and was using that to prove that they were millions of years old. Or something like that – I’m not sure exactly what he was going on about, and as I made perfectly clear at the time, there was no logical fallacy. Another article by BT on a similar issue has similar problems – he claims that the statement that “geologists have established that the Hell Creek Formation, where B. rex was found, is 68 million years old, and so are the bones buried in it.” is an “appeal to authority” – suggests that he wouldn’t know a logical fallacy if it punched him in the face, which perhaps goes some way as to explain why his articles are so full of them.

This latest DpSU (and it is a DpSU, in that it is on this page) is by Brain Thomas as usual, but is also apparently co-written by “Randy J. Guliuzza”, “National Representative at the Institute for Creation Research” whose qualifications are “P.E.” (professional Engineer) and “M.D.” (Doctor of Medicine). Why he is co-writing I have no idea. As far as I can tell, nothing has actually changes since the previous BT article, so I don’t even know why this was written at all.

In this article the two again accuse Schweitzer of  the same non-existent logical fallacy. They also claim that the paper’s title – “Dinosaur Peptides Suggest Mechanisms of Protein Survival” – is not actually covered in the paper itself. Or, as they say, “the authors fail to address the titled topic”. They say that “the “peer review” process … failed to detect this critical omission and block the study’s publication”.

The thing that they seem to have missed is the word “suggest” in the paper title. They say:

The closest that the study authors came to sorting out the problem of long-term protein survival was to note the hypothetical possibility—one that was not experimentally tested—that tiny areas on the fibrils could have adhered to a mineral surface.

The “suggest” part mean that they are dealing in “hypothetical possibilities” and aren’t at the stage of experimentally testing anything yet.

The idea is that the pieces of soft tissue are only found in sheltered locations in the fossil, and so that suggests that they have a better chance of survival there. What’s thir problem? They say:

This might extend the proteins’ survival a little bit on the side of the fibril in contact with the mineral. But it is too far a stretch to claim that the protein on one side could have lasted millions of years while the other side decayed at the regular pace. After all, the distance between the sides is a miniscule 67 nanometers. Such guesswork does not explain how fibrous collagen protein could survive for millions of years—whether adhered to minerals or not adhered.

They provide no evidence of their statements, certainly not enough for them to be claiming that the peer review process has failed. And so what if the distance is “a minuscule 67 nanometers”?

Thomas and Guliuzza continue on, bemoaning that:

This report looks like it will become another in a long series of articles that, no matter how mediocre their level of peer review, are assumed to settle a matter merely because they are in print. This happened with a recent sophomoric (but nonetheless published) attempt to discredit a sauropod dinosaur-looking rock carving in Utah.2 Similarly, unrealistic and nonsensical attempts to dismiss irreducible biological mechanisms as powerful evidence for creation have achieved published status as they were passed along by low standards of peer review.3,4

The 2 is this hilarious fail of an article, which I really will have to cover sometime, probably sooner rather than later. and Irreducible Complexity is “nonsensical” anyway.

And then they try bash Science blogging, for some reason, citing an old New York Times article. I have no idea what they’re on about, and for starters the article is not even remotely about this topic (whether it be Dinosaurs or Peer Review).

Oh, and then they finish with this:

The PLoS ONE paper and others demonstrate a perverse use of scientific literature to justify a particular position—like eugenicists did in the early twentieth century, or like those who claimed, based on inaccurate published literature, that asbestos did not cause mesothelioma or that smoking did not cause lung cancer.6

Just as smoking is a leading cause of lung cancer, soft tissue fossils are exceptionally strong evidence for an earth history that cannot be older than thousands of years—despite contrary but illogical assertions that should never have passed peer review.

To their list in the first quoted paragraph, the people who “demonstrate a perverse use of scientific literature to justify a particular position”, I propose Global Warming Denialists and Creationists (of which the ICR is both) be added. The do exactly that. And they have really failed to prove their point here.

I shall finish with the same thing I finished with last time:

Finally, from Talk.Origins, on soft tissues:

If dinosaur fossils were as young as creationists claim, finding soft tissues in them would not be news, and recovering DNA from them should be easy enough that it would have been done by now.

I rest my case.


5 thoughts on “Soft Tissues are Back!

  1. Pingback: From Dinosaurs to Ice Age Plants « Eye on the ICR

  2. Pingback: The Utah ‘Dinosaur’ Petroglyph « Eye on the ICR

  3. Pingback: More Fruit Fly Larvae « Eye on the ICR

  4. Pingback: “I Have A List” « Eye on the ICR

  5. Pingback: I’m Sure I Just Did This One « Eye on the ICR


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