Creationist Wisdom #99: DNA’s Half-Life

ONCE again, dear reader, we bring you the view from the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) — the granddaddy of contemporary creationism. They have this new article at their website: Intact DNA Discovered in Ancient Salt Deposits. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:

Researchers recently analyzed bacterial DNA that was found in small pockets within various salt deposits. The focus of their research was to compare differences in DNA sequences taken from different geological ages. However, the very fact that DNA — with its short half-life — was found at all comes as a surprise to those who were thoroughly convinced of the material’s great ages.

DNA has a half-life? We know about half-life as a measure of radioactive decay. The term is also used, although with far less precision, in various biological contexts, often in reference to something like the shelf-life of drugs or blood plasma. But DNA half-life?

Anyway, the article is about the discovery of what is said to be intact DNA from 419-million-year-old bacteria. The find is briefly described in Discovery News: World’s Oldest Known DNA Discovered.

Let’s read on to see what else the creationists have to say about it:

This raises another question that is equally difficult to reconcile with evolutionary time. The bacteria are known to have been in isolated pockets within solid salt deposits. There are no cracks leading to or from these pockets, so the salt-loving species of bacteria must have come from a tiny population that was trapped there since the vast salt deposit was formed. That’s what makes its DNA valuable to the investigators, since the specimens have been isolated from outside influences. But living bacteria, like any other living thing, produce metabolic waste that becomes toxic. Why did they not poison themselves to death in mere thousands of years?

A fair question. We continue:

Despite lingering questions like these, Melanie Mormile of Missouri University of Science and Technology told Discovery News: “There is better and better evidence that these organisms can somehow survive for these amazing amounts of time.”

Yes, that’s what she was quoted as saying. Here’s her page at Missouri University of Science and Technology: Melanie Mormile, Ph.D. But what does she know? She’s only a scientist, and we assume she’s also a — gasp! — “Darwinist” too. We need some creationist insight from ICR:

Both common sense and science, though, argue that they could not have survived.

Really? Okay. They go on to conclude:

Therefore, a more reasonable conclusion from this data would be that there is better and better evidence that these “amazing amounts of time” are actually too amazing to be true.

Perfectly reasonable — for a creationist. You noticed, of course, how ICR mocked Melanie’s “there is better and better evidence” phrase. Classy.

According to the article in Discovery News, the scientists who found the bacterial DNA in salt tracked the salt to a mine in Saskatchewan, and the source rocks in the mine formed when a sea dried up around 300 million years ago. What does ICR say about that? They don’t mention it.

Here’s ICR’s final paragraph — pretty much what you were expecting:

This miniscule amount of bacterial DNA seems to send a massive message about the young age of the salt deposits in which they were found. And what better mechanism to explain the formation of such huge salt deposits containing still-fresh bacteria populations than a recent, worldwide, watery cataclysm?

There you are — evidence for the Flood and a 6,000 year-old earth just keeps piling up. (Well, something keeps piling up.)

Copyright © 2009. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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3 responses to “Creationist Wisdom #99: DNA’s Half-Life

  1. Gabriel Hanna

    Anything could have a “half-life”; if it’s a population of somethings that have a probability X of lasting Y years.

    The population of Japan, for example, is decreasing at a constant rate and it would be entirely appropriate to speak of the “half-life” of Japan. If Japan’s population were increasing it would have a negative half-life and the half-life would measure the time of doubling.

    Whether ICR know science well enough to back up that definition for DNA, I don’t speculate. But someone who DID know what they were talking about might speak of the “half-life” of DNA under such-and-such conditions.

  2. Gabriel Hanna says:

    Anything could have a “half-life” …

    Yes, I suppose so. But I suspect the ICR author just slapped that term into his article because it sounded impressive.

  3. “(W)hat better mechanism to explain the formation of such huge salt deposits containing still-fresh bacteria populations than a recent, worldwide, watery cataclysm?”


    I’ve often thought that underground evaporated salt deposits were one of the most difficult things for a creationist to explain, but this sentence alone just shows that not only do they not understand the process, they don’t even understand the question. This falls under “not even wrong.”