DNA in dinosaur bones?
The movie Jurassic Park (1993) was premised on the idea of cloning dinosaurs, which entailed finding dinosaur DNA in mosquitoes embedded in “ancient” amber. This article isn’t a critique of the movie or an explanation of cloning, but rather, focuses on the question of the existence of dinosaur DNA. One of the reasons we have not been able to clone a dinosaur is that it does require the presence of intact dinosaur DNA. (It also would require an egg from a living dinosaur, which is another huge problem in and of itself.)
Recently, however, scientists believe they may truly have discovered intact dinosaur DNA! (See reference 1 below)
This is very exciting news, but also very, very surprising for evolutionists (and others, including some Christians) who believe the Earth is billions of years old and that dinosaurs became extinct some 65 million years ago. Here’s the enigma… DNA is known to degrade fairly rapidly and it cannot be imaged to last for hundreds of thousands or millions of years. The best testing done so far indicates that it may only last for approximately 10,000 years. Yet, here are dinosaur bones, thought to be at least 65 million years old, and they contain intact DNA! Some scientists thought that maybe the DNA was actually from recent bacteria and not from the dinosaur itself. However, the testing that has been done so far indicates that it is not from external bacteria and is most likely actual dinosaur DNA. We’ll have to keep a close watch on this one to see what the final conclusion turns out to be. If it’s legitimate, it will come as quite a shock to those in the evolutionary community as well as any others who also believe dinosaurs lived millions of years ago (but not to those who accept the historical six-day creation account in Genesis).
There are also other scientific reasons to believe dinosaur bones cannot possibly be millions of years old.
We have discovered dinosaur bones that are still “fresh”, meaning they haven’t even had enough time to fossilize. If they were at least 65 million years old, they would have turned into a fossil a long, long, long time ago!
We have discovered carbon-14 in dinosaur bones! The half-life of carbon-14, which is radioactive (unstable) and wants to decay back into nitrogen-14, is 5,730 years. What does that mean? It means that at the decay rate we currently measure, it would only take 5,730 years for half of a given amount of carbon-14 to decay away. Every 5,730 years, half would be gone. At this rate, it would only take maybe about 80,000 years or so for there to be so little carbon-14 left that we cannot even measure it anymore. There certainly wouldn’t be any left after 65 million years! (In fact, even if you had a mass of carbon-14 the size of the Earth, it would only take 1 million years for every carbon-14 atom to be gone!) So the carbon-14 levels of the dinosaur bones would indicate only a few thousand years, not millions.
In 1997 they discovered red blood cells and soft tissue in dinosaur bones! At first the discoverer (Mary Schweitzer) didn’t believe it. After all, she reasoned, we know the bones are millions of years old! After further research, it was undeniable… she had discovered real blood cells and soft tissue. Scientists feel that because of the fragile nature of red blood cells, they would not last un-decomposed for millions of years. In reality, they may only last approximately 10,000 years under typical expected conditions. This is very similar to the situation with the discovery of what appears to be dinosaur DNA.
So do the scientists who discovered the blood cells and DNA rethink the age of the bones (which would be something logical to do)? No, they simply conclude that there must be some unknown process which could preserve these materials for multiplied millions of years! (This is truly a statement of faith on their part, since there’s nothing in science to support such a view.)
This reminds me of a joke (which I think isn’t all that funny) but it serves to illustrate a point. A man is fully convinced that he is dead, and no one can convince him otherwise. After weeks of frustration, his wife finally takes him to the doctor, figuring he could deal with him. The doctor asks a lot of questions and uses a lot of good arguments, but the man remains unconvinced. Eventually, the doctor thinks he’s got him. He says, “George, give me your hand,” to which George complies. The doctor pricks his finger and he starts to bleed. Then the doctor asks, “George, do dead men bleed?” to which he replies, “Wow, I didn’t think so, but I guess dead men really do bleed!”
Some people will not change their minds about certain things no matter what. For most scientists, the general public and even many Christians, dinosaurs being millions of years old is one of those things. We learn from kindergarten on up that dinosaurs became extinct 65 million years ago and it seems as clear as day. Anyone who would question it is obviously not living in the real world. (That’s the impression most people have.)
So how do they come up with these ages of 65 or 100 million years for the dinosaur bones? That’s a great question and we will address that in next month’s “Question of the Month”. (Sorry to make you wait!)
If you have any questions in the meantime, please don’t hesitate to contact us!
Reference 1: Schweitzer, M. H. et al. 2013 Molecular analyses of dinosaur osteocytes support the presence of endogenous molecules. Bone. 52 (1): 414-423.
Author: Jay Seegert (Co-Founder & Principal Lecturer, Creation Education Center)