Ancient Tissue Revolutionizing Historical Science
The ability to observe and reconstruct ancient DNA, proteins and tissues is bringing surprises to evolutionists.
The shock of finding preserved blood cells and proteins in off-the-shelf dinosaur bone (6/09/15) hasn’t quite settled yet, but scientists have years of experience resurrecting original molecules from fossils and early humans. We can expect more surprises, paradigm shifts and theory revisions as techniques improve, according to articles in leading journals.
In “New Life for Old Bones,” Elizabeth Culotta at Science Magazine surveys the recent development of technology for reconstructing ancient DNA. It’s already helped archaeologists learn about diseases of ancient Egyptians, but more exciting is Svante Pääbo’s analysis of Neanderthal DNA and remains from other early humans (latest example published this week in Nature). It used to be a “quixotic” endeavor, she says:
No longer. As sequencing and sample preparation technologies improve and researchers from fields outside paleoanthropology realize just how much ancient DNA can tell them, the method is being applied to everything from the peopling of Europe to how plants and pathogens respond to climate change. “We now see something of an explosion,” Pääbo says. “Ancient DNA is about to become a normal tool … an integrated part of many projects … much like carbon dating is already.”
“There’s a revolution,” agrees Krause, who recently moved from Tübingen to Jena, Germany, to co-direct a new Max Planck Institute on the Science of Human History. “The techniques are available to everybody. You can work with a small lab and publish high-profile publications. You don’t need fancy equipment, you need know-how. And that know-how is spreading.”
The most ancient DNA Culotta mentions is claimed to be 30,000 years old, but scientists have ways of pushing the envelope. Live Science, meanwhile, describes how mammoth DNA was used to infer possible climate changes that may have contributed to their extinction (see paper in Science Magazine).
In “Protein Power,” Robert F. Service writes for Science Magazine about the search for ancient proteins. Analysis of proteins has been used in archaeology, but the potential for prehistorical analysis is promising. “There’s tons of it compared to DNA,” one UK researcher touts, making it much more accessible for analysis. “Protein sequencing has the potential to look a lot further back in time,” one said—even millions of years. It was used recently, for instance, to untangle relationships between “bizarre, extinct animals from South America” that puzzled Darwin (see paper in Nature). Service describes the state of the art:
In addition to solving Darwin’s conundrum, ancient proteins have already illuminated a few far-flung corners of ancient life, helping diagnose a severe bacterial infection in a 500-year-old Incan mummy and identify the cattle proteins used to glue a 3500-year-old Chinese sculpture. The method appears particularly promising in archaeology, where it can reveal the diets and lifestyles of past cultures, illuminating which plants and animals people used and how they used them. “This field is going great guns at the moment,” Collins says.
Still, the technique has a long way to go before it reaches the maturity of paleogenetics, chiefly because methods to sequence amino acids lag behind DNA sequencing. And dedicated funding for ancient protein work remains miniscule. “I don’t think we’re quite there yet,” says paleoproteomics leader Peggy Ostrom of Michigan State University in East Lansing. But “we’ve made enormous progress over the last 15 years.”
Astonishingly, Service mentions a case as far back as 1954 when a physicist from the Carnegie Institution “detected amino acids—the building blocks of proteins—in fossils, including fossilized fish more than 300 million years old.” The technology for sequencing protein, though, was not available at the time. Since then, mass spectrometry has been able to get by with smaller samples, and “shotgun proteomics” can find rare proteins in small samples. Service writes about successes tracing the distribution of lactose intolerance in Europe, but then teases about what’s coming. Then, he mentions dinosaur soft tissue in his final paragraph:
Such successes are just the beginning. Other reports have revealed the ancient production of sourdough bread and kefir cheese in Bronze Age China, and identified periodontal disease in the teeth of medieval monks in Dalheim, Germany. Some studies have even suggested that new methods can spot intact proteins from dinosaurs up to 80 million years old (Science, 1 May 2009, p. 578). These studies have yet to be confirmed by independent labs. But if that happens, paleoproteomics may shine a new spotlight onto the ancient past.
This indicates that evolutionary scientists committed to the geological column are warming up to the idea that proteins could have survived for millions of years. What will they think when dinosaur DNA is found?
Evolutionists’ commitment to millions of years is unshakeable. It appears no evidence can drive a wedge into that hardwood. Millions of years is written on their stony hearts with an iron stylus; it is the non-negotiable article of faith for their Darwin atheology. But as evidence of soft tissue and possible DNA in dinosaur-era fossils continues to mount, what will they do? As we have already seen, most will simply incorporate the findings into millions of years without blinking an eye; that’s what they did in 1954 with the amino acids in “fossilized fish more than 300 million years old,” and all indications are that they will continue that escape route. It didn’t shake them in 2009, and it hasn’t shaken them in 2015.
It will be up to clear-thinking individuals to show that known decay rates of DNA and proteins make millions-of-years preservation incredibly unlikely. For a few, the reality may sink in. The others will have to die in their sins, the old guard of Darwin vanishing off the stage of old age.