Beached Whales

The title of the DpSU for the 20th of December is Whales in the Desert? The topic is interesting in that I’ve already heard of this find in the context of creationism – it was discussed twice on TWIGO:CP, in TerryH fails geology forever and more briefly in Terry vs The Whale, and inspired a post on We Couldn’t Make This Up.

Now, Mr Hurlbut made a slightly different claim than Mr Thomas does now. To quote the latter blog post:

His argument boils down to the fact that “How did eighty whales wash ashore, half a mile inland, and at an elevation greater even than the height of the Empire State Building?

Much of the criticism directed at TerryH on the RationalWiki page can be summarised by the following quote from Whoover in the first discussion link:

Here’s a site, not too far from the “coastal highway” expansion that uncovered the site. Its elevation is 151 feet. “Whale Hill” must be hella steep. OTOH, if the site were at 13,000 that wouldn’t hurt “evolutionists'” feelings.

(Terry claimed that the Atacama desert is 13,000 feet high, and argued that the fossils were found at a similar height. They almost certainly weren’t, but even if they were they had 7 million years to get there.)

The Atacama desert and surrounding regions Continue reading

Those Soft Tissues

Click to view the list itselfThe Daily Science Update for Tuesday was Skin Sample Is Two Million Years Old? In it we have a return to the topic of soft tissues which were so popular back in July.

Back in July, along with a number of DpSUs on the subject, Mr Thomas created a list of “Published Reports of Original Soft Tissue Fossils.” At the time I went over this list, commenting on each entry in what was admittedly a rather typo-riddled post. I said I would make summary of the contents – considering I didn’t at the time, now is a good a time as any to do so. Continue reading

Bone-Eating Zombie Worms

Osedax roseusThe DpSU for Friday turned out to be called ‘Zombie Worms’ Ate Mediterranean Fossil.

The situation here is that we have some worms of the genus Osedax that bore into bones to get at trapped lipids. Idea is that:

…then all those large, bony marine creatures—and birds—that were fossilized alongside dinosaurs must also have been deposited, buried, and mineralized rapidly to avoid destruction by Osedax.

(The quote makes slightly more sense in context, but then that reduces its explanatory usefulness). What he’s trying to prove is that the fossilisation process must be much faster than generally thought, so as to allow in the rather short timescales of young-Earth creationism which otherwise would be impossible. Continue reading

“I Have A List”

Or the Institute for Creation Research’s Brian Thomas does, at least.

In a recent blog post I mentioned that a possible reason for Mr Thomas’ recent absence is the creation of a list of Published Reports of Original Soft Tissue Fossils. Or something like that – as you will see, the list is a repository of miscellaneous pieces of anomalous data that could potentially be shoehorned into ‘disproving’ evolutionary time-scales. Continue reading

I Sense a Pattern

This latest Daily (pseudo)Science Update from the Institute for Creation Research, Fossil Pigment Paints Long Ages into a Corner, is the third in four days to be about organic materials in fossils, and the fourth of four to be about fossils in general. As such, I’m going to make this a quick one, as I’ve said enough about this kind of thing for the week. Go and read Soft Tissues and Logical Fallacies, Soft Tissues are Back!, and From Dinosaurs to Ice Age Plants for more information here.

Confuciusornis_sanctus_mmartyniuk Continue reading

From Dinosaurs to Ice Age Plants

Fresh from his latest article on collagen survival in dinosaur fossils, Brian Thomas of the Institute for Creation Research is now spreading misinformation about the discovery of some exceptionally well-preserved trees in Ice Age clay in Maine.

Basically we have some wood found in 1976 in Maine in an “Ice Age clay formation in a gravel pit.” Some of the trees have leaves (well, needles – they’re spruces apparently), which are still green. The discoverer, geologist Woodrow ‘Woody’ Thompson, did some investigation at the time, but then returned to his work on the Maine Geological Survey. More recently, in 2007, work on a Hospital uncovered much more of the trees, and Thompson returned to the case. He sought carbon-dating of the trees, and this is where Brian Thomas’ article, Green Fossil Leaves Point to Recent Catastrophe, begins to depart from reality. Continue reading

Soft Tissues and Logical Fallacies

Collagen MoleculeIn 2005, Palaeontologists lead by Mary Higby Schweitzer revealed to the world (in a paper in Science, read it here) of their discovery of ‘soft tissue’ in a bone of the ‘B. Rex’ Tryannosaurus specimen (MOR 1125), which was dug up in a 68 million year old portion of the Hell Creek formation. The proteins thought to be found included Collagen, pictured. This is pretty cool, but it seems Schweitzer had learnt from a previous announcement of hers in 1993, which seems to have since been largely discredited (I’m not too sure here). The 2005 paper admitted:

Whether preservation is strictly morphological and the result of some kind of unknown geochemical replacement process or whether it extends to the subcellular and molecular levels is uncertain.

Nevertheless, in the time since then it has been increasingly shown that the collagen from the bone is the real deal (although it could still be of bacterial origin), with — among other things — a small number of other dinosaurs having been found that show similar evidence, for example. The evidence is, apparently, so sound that Dr Schweitzer and a few others have published a study that compares the molecules of collagen themselves with those from “extant taxa”, i.e. living creatures, and discusses how the protein could have been preserved far beyond the expected length of time. Continue reading

Limits to Evolution and an Out of Place Fossil – Quick DpSU 14 June

Our first DpSU is entitled “The Cost of Adaptations Limits Evolution“. This seems to be a classic Micro/Macro Evolution story, and by my reckoning a Type AE DpSU (Misrepresented Study).

Or in this case, studies. Mr Thomas is talking about two studies from a recent issue of the journal Science in which bacteria (Methylobacterium and E. coli) were experimented upon, with the researches investigating the effects of multiple mutations on Epistasis. Epistasis, btw, is (to quote WP) “the phenomenon where the effects of one gene are modified by one or several other genes, which are sometimes called modifier genes.” Interestingly, the ICR article does not mention the word Epistasis anywhere outside of it’s references.

The problem I have with this article is that I don’t have access to any part of the studies beyond the abstract, so I’m a bit limited about what I can say.

To distil the ICR article down somewhat, what the studies seem to show is that, as beneficial mutations accumulate, their benefits decrease, causing a diminishing returns situation. And this disproves evolution how? Mr Thomas extrapolates this to say that animals only have a limited ability to evolve. So Baraminology is out the door then? Definiately an AE, though I don’t have the time to deconstruct the article.

As for the second, “Out of Place Marine Fossil Disrupts Evolutionary Index“.

The science behind this is that a group of animals from the Cambrian period, the Anomalocaridids, have been shown to have survived significantly longer. It might be added that we already knew that to a certain degree, but that wont stop Mr Thomas.

No, a new discovery shows (according to him) that the whole ‘Evolutionary Index’ is unreliable, as Anomalocaridids are a defining feature of Cambrian rocks, indeed make Cambrian rocks Cambrian. There is, however, no reference to that claim, which would help. He also claims that Noah’s flood predicts that fossils should be disorganised, and that this is a prime example of that. I’ll cover this kind of thing in my Noah’s Ark series shortly, but I’ll add here that the Flood would disorganise fossils a whole lot more than is observed.

Thomas also throws in a declaration that the fossils found are already perfect, and therefore could not evolve further and could not have been evolved either — therefore God (spot the logical fallacy anyone?). Also, he says that “no anomalocaridid looks like an evolutionary transition”. *sigh*. What is an evolutionary transition by Mr Thomas’ unknown definition anyway. A ‘transition’ looks no different from any other fossil, and is defined only by the prior discovery of fossils that have the potential to be ancestors/aunts and descendants/nieces of the new discovery. If you find fossils in a different order, different fossils are classified as ‘transitional’.

And that’s all I have time for tonight…

This is the Best You Can Come Up With? – Quick DpSU

There seems to be a conspiracy theory amongst Creationists, at-least at the ICR, that dinosaur beds contain fossils of modern species as well. This conspiracy seems to be largely the result of the work of “Medical doctor Carl Werner”, and his Evolution: The Grand Experiment book and DVD series.

For today’s DpSU, Brian Thomas (who we haven’t seen for a few days), in typical Type AE (Misrepresented Study) style, uses a National Geographic article about an interview with a palaeontologist working in Madagascar to provide “More Proof That Dinosaurs Lived With ‘Later’ Creatures“.

Ignoring the references to Werner, which I will likely cover as part of my Noah’s Flood series (they appear elsewhere as well), Thomas’ article boils down to the number of non-dinosaur specimens dug up in Madagascar. However, as you can see, Thomas is either ignorant (which I doubt) or is trying to set up a straw man:

According to evolution, dinosaurs dominated certain “times” millions of years ago. But according to Scripture, all animals and plants had been created by the end of the sixth day. If the former is true, then dinosaur fossils should primarily be found by themselves. But if the latter is true, then dinosaur remains should be found mixed with those of birds, mammals, and all kinds of plants.

The “Time” of the dinosaurs was dominated by dinosaurs to a similar degree that the present day is the “Time” of mammals, and is dominated by them. As you are most likely fully aware, while there are a lot of Mammals around there are also Birds and Lizards and Fish and Insects and Slime Moulds, and also a few Plants as well (seriously, where did that come from?). The Mesozoic likewise had those groups, along with dinosaurs and a scattering of mammals (it might be added that birds are dinosaurs). Nobody is arguing that we would only, or even primarily find dinosaurs in Mesozoic sediments. But leaving that aside for the moment, what has been found that so excites the Creationists?

Not much that should, really:

Along with dinosaurs, the finds included an extinct bird named Rahonavis, a short-bodied crocodile-like creature called Simosuchus, and a toad that Krause and his colleagues named Beelzebufo. Other than having been about twice the size of today’s largest toads at 10 pounds, it was just like a modern toad.

An “extinct bird”, a “crocodile-like creature” and a toad.


Rahonavis is an extinct genus, part of an equally extinct Subfamily and Family, the latter of which includes Velociraptor, as it happens. Their classification as “birds” appears to come from when they were initially discovered, and before many of the more recent feathered dinosaur finds that had feathers. The National Geographic article calls them a “dromaeosaurid theropod, one that belonged to a particular group known as unenlagines otherwise known only from South America”. Awesome, yes, but not evidence towards Thomas’ premise. It’s hardly modern…

Simosuchus is frankly bizarre:

Simosuchus was based on an exquisitely preserved, articulated skull and most of the skeleton found in 1998 by a Malagasy graduate student, Louis Laurent Randriamiaramanana. It is an extremely unusual crocodyliform that seems to break many of the rules of being crocodile-like. Instead of having a long snout, it had a pug-nose. Instead of having long, conical teeth with which to capture prey, it had leaf-shaped teeth, probably used to eat vegetation. Instead of having a long, laterally compressed tail, it had an extremely short, uncompressed one. Instead of having a few rows of bony plates in its skin like most of its close relatives, it was enveloped in them, resulting in a tank-like body; it even had bony shields on its legs. And on and on. The phenomenal preservation of this specimen in particular, but also several more recently discovered skeletons, prompted us to thoroughly document the anatomy of Simosuchus and make inferences about its relationships and functional morphology in a recently published, large, multi-authored volume (Krause and Kley, 2010).

(From the N.G. article)

This “kind”, as it were, of creature (ie the crocodile and similar) has existed for a long time, longer even than the dinosaurs themselves. This find, while also awesome (this is palaeontology after all), again only helps Thomas if anyone actually did claim that you would only find dinosaur fossils with dinosaurs.

As for the toad? More can be found here. I don’t want to repeat myself, so go read the article yourself.

None of these showed any hint of transitioning from one form to another, as Darwinism predicts, but instead each was found fully formed. And who knows what other birds, amphibians, and possibly mammals were discovered by the team in Madagascar that have yet to be publicized.

What? Were you expecting transformers fossilised in the act? A toad with half a leg? Honestly… It might be added that the lines of both the ‘bird’ and the crocodyliform have died out. Few fossils are the direct ancestors of modern animals, more like the aunts.

So, nobody aside from Brian Thomas is claiming that there can only be dinosaur fossils in finds like this. And because of that, nobody is unduly surprised. If they found a bona-fide modern animal, then maybe he would be right. Until then…