1. Original Animal Protein in Fossils?, Brian Thomas, Creation Ministries International, 9 February
We have a fine fossil fish with original collagen fibres featured on an office wall at ICR (see photo above). It is from the Green River Formation in Wyoming. How do we know it is actually original fish collagen? First, it is a different colour, hardness, and texture from the surrounding rock. One visitor said that it looks like beef jerky. Second, the paleontologists who prepared it wrote that it was collagen. To dispel any doubt, scientists used four independent techniques to directly test fossil lizard skin from the same formation as our fish. They wrote,
“Taken together, all the analyses performed in this study strongly suggest that the fossilized reptile skin in BHI-102B [the lizard fossil] is not a simple impression, mineralized replacement or an amorphous organic carbon ﬁlm, but contains a partial remnant of the living organism’s original chemistry, in this case derived from proteinaceous skin.”
So the ICR has another fossil? That’s interesting. More important though is how none of the evidence given above shows that his fish has extant collagen. The physical appearance of fibres doesn’t mean that, chemically, they are collagen. Nor doest the presence of “a partial remnant of the living organism’s original chemistry” in a different fossil mean that we have anything more than the decay products of tens of millions of years. And if it really is fragile collagen then shouldn’t it be decaying incredibly rapidly up there on the wall?
Deeper reading: The paper from which Thomas quotes, Infrared mapping resolves soft tissue preservation in 50 million year-old reptile skin, can be read in full online these days. There are at least two further points that come from this that upset Thomas’ claims. First, they say:
The Green River Formation is universally recognized as a major hydrocarbon reservoir and has been studied in detail for over 80 years. These hydrocarbons are derived from the degradation of ancient organisms (higher plants being the likely dominant contributor) and not from modern sources. Therefore, the survival of organic compounds for 50 Myr within the Green River Formation is not problematic.
(Emphasis added.) The second thing to note is that the source of the organic compounds is not collagen at all, but the breakdown of keratin. In other words, it doesn’t lend any support towards what Thomas is claiming for his own fossil.
2. New Cambrian Fossil Quarry Beats Burgess Shale, David Coppedge, Creation Evolution Headlines, 11 February
So these dumb animals “developed” hard parts. Right. They did it “to protect themselves.” They met in war rooms to discuss plans for their “arms race.” They “drove” evolution. This is all the fallacy of personification. It won’t work for a theory that champions unplanned, unguided, aimless, blind natural processes.
I’m torn over whether this is an example of the fallacy fallacy – the false dismissal of a conclusion because the argument is fallacious – or just dumb. I am, however, leaning towards the latter, and not just because I’m not fond of the game of spotting fallacies.
Coppedge is apparently unable to tell the difference between a fallacy and a metaphor. I believe I’ve talked in an earlier installation of this series about playing around with an evolution simulator, and in doing so observing a process that could very easily be described in exactly those terms. That I would be personifying the artificial organisms to an extent doesn’t mean that it didn’t actually happen. Would Coppedge prefer scientists use impenetrable jargon instead?
3. New Craters Found on Mars, David Coppedge, Creation Evolution Headlines, 13 February
Let’s do a simple back-of-the-envelope calculation of cratering on Mars from the figure given: at least 200 new impacts per year 12 ft across or more. That should yield 900 billion craters over the lifetime of Mars – close to a trillion. Assuming a fraction of those would be large enough to loft debris to form secondary craters, and some of those could create orbiting bodies that would fall later, that total seems unreasonably high. The same rate would produce over a million craters in just 6,000 years – plenty, but credible. If anyone would like to refine these estimates, they would need to consider the rate of erasure of craters by dust storms and other impacts, and factors that could vary the impact rate from a steady state. The rate we measure today, for instance, may not reflect rates in the past. Planetary scientists frequently propose a “Late Heavy Bombardment” of large impactors, for instance, but such hypotheses are speculative.
Coppedge isn’t the only one who can do back of the envelope maths: dividing the surface area of Mars by his million craters shows that according to young Earth creationism there should be only a crater of more than a 12.8ft/3.9 metre diameter in every 140 square kilometres. This is not nearly enough, considering what we observe from our probes. In contrast, a trillion craters total comes out at one in every 140 square metres, which is comparatively reasonable, though it’s now too dense as of course the surface of Mars isn’t all 4.5 billion years old. The thing about back of the envelope calculations, you see, is that you need to check whether or not the answer you get makes sense: that’s what they’re for.
Deeper reading: There are of course many more small craters than large ones, and it’s only really practical to count the those that are fairly big. As Stuart Robbins discovered, presumably to his horror, there are around 385,000 craters on Mars that are more than 1 kilometre across, let alone a mere dozen feet. Coppedge is way off, and to accommodate all these craters within his YEC worldview he would need to posit an increase in the cratering rate by hundreds of thousands of times, which only brings us back to issues that have come up repeatedly in this series.
Here’s a picture of the 22-metre Eagle crater, containing the Opportunity lander, and some surrounding craters many of which are also going to be more than 4 metres across.
Needless to say, if Coppedge’s calculations were correct none of those other craters would be there.
4. On Camels & C-14 Dating, Part 1, (Unknown), Theology Archaeology, 14 February
Second, dating a secondary site to a certain period then declaring everything in that site s [sic] from that time period is circular reasoning. The bones are from the 11th-9th centuries because the site is from the 11th to 9th centuries and vice versa. There is nothing in that site that indicates those bones were buried at that time.
This is an unusual formulation of a common creationist claim – that “the rocks date the fossils, and the fossils date the rocks.” It would be somewhat more accurate to say that “the rocks date the fossils, and the fossils date other rocks,” and which the claimed circularity vanishes.