National Geographic News
A group of Przewalski's horses.

A group of Przewalski's horses, once considered extinct in the wild.

Photograph by Michael Nichols, National Geographic

A horse skull.

Photograph courtesy D.G. Froese via Nature

Jane J. Lee

National Geographic

Published June 26, 2013

DNA shines a light back into the past, showing us things that fossils can't. But how far back can that light extend?

Some of the oldest DNA sequences come from mastodon and polar bear fossils about 50,000 and 110,000 years old, respectively. But a new study published online today in the journal Nature reports the latest in the push for recovering ever more ancient DNA sequences. Samples from a horse leg bone more than 700,000 years old have yielded the oldest full genome known to date.

"We knew that sequencing ancient genomes as old as 70,000 to 80,000 years old was possible," said Ludovic Orlando, an evolutionary geneticist with the Natural History Museum of Denmark at the University of Copenhagen. "So we said, why not try even further back in time?"

The Pleistocene horse genome Orlando and colleagues pieced together helped them determine that the ancestor to the Equus lineage—the group that gave rise to modern horses, zebras, and donkeys—arose 4 to 4.5 million years ago, or about two million years earlier than previously thought. (Learn more about the evolution of horses.)

The ancient horse genome also allowed the team to determine the evolutionary relationship between modern domestic horses and the endangered Przewalski's horse, a native to the Mongolian steppes that represents the last living breed of wild horse.

The team found that Przewalski's horses were an offshoot of the lineage that gave rise to domestic horses. The two groups diverged around 50,000 years ago.

Once considered extinct in the wild, Przewalski's horse was re-introduced into the wild from a captive population of only a few dozen. While this number suggests that the genetic diversity of the species might be too small to support, the study shows that Przewalski's horses are in fact more genetically diverse than domestic breeds such as Arabian and Icelandic horses.

"We think that there's enough genetic diversity within the Przewalski's horse to keep conservation efforts viable," Orlando said.

Cold Storage

Extracting ancient genomes from long-dead samples is labor intensive, and there is a limit to how far back one can go.

Studies on the half-life of DNA suggest that even under ideal circumstances, DNA sequences older than 1.5 million years will be too short to be readable. So it's highly unlikely that DNA will be recovered from dinosaurs, since they disappeared 65 million years ago, except for the lineage leading to modern birds.

But the preservation environment of an ancient sample can help extend the amount of time DNA has before it degrades past the point of being recoverable.

"Cold is good," said Orlando. Frozen is even better, because liquid water isn't present to degrade DNA molecules.

The six-inch (15-centimeter) horse leg bone the team analyzed originated in the Yukon Territory of western Canada. Permafrost kept the remains in a kind of cold storage for about 735,000 years until scientists dug it out in 2003.

To determine whether there might be any biological molecules left in the sample, Orlando and colleagues first looked to see if they could spot amino acids from collagen—a protein found in bone—in the specimen.

Once they identified and successfully sequenced those proteins, the researchers moved on to trying to extract DNA from the ancient leg bone.

As is the case with the majority of ancient fossils, most of the DNA they found was from bacteria that had populated the bone after the horse died. Using DNA from modern horses as a reference, the team was able to identify "endogenous" DNA that belonged to the ancient horse itself.

"We sequenced 12 billion DNA molecules, of which 40 million [were of] horse origin," said Orlando. "There was a bit of horse DNA in an ocean of microbial DNA."

A New World

The recovery of a genome almost an order of magnitude older than any previous genomic information opens up a wide range of new targets for studying fossils at the genetic level, possibly including ancient human species, if they lived in cooler environments.

"You name it—what are your favorite Pleistocene beasts?" wrote Hendrik Poinar, an evolutionary geneticist at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, in an email.

Poinar, who was not involved in the current study, would like to see this applied to elephant evolution. "This should address issues related to the origin of hair and size plasticity and how they adapted to very different ecologies."

He was not surprised that researchers were able to sequence a complete genome from 700,000 years ago. It just takes time and money, Poinar said.

But he also points out that sequencing ancient genomes is more about preservation in various environments than the age of a specimen. "I am sure there will be older genomes soon enough."

Follow Jane J. Lee on Twitter.

78 comments
Sean Sedia
Sean Sedia

Recreating extinct animals has nothing to do with God. If God gave us the opportunity, the resources, the knowledge and the brain power to do this, why wouldn't you do it. Your not creating life your saving life. Every extinct animal is actually an animal that once lived but died out. We may have even hunted them to extinction or other animals did. Once the predators have been removed from the world then the herbivores will over populate and they will eat and drink all the food and water and then die out. We killed the mammoths they had a purpose but we eliminated them thousands of years ago and used their bones for tools and their meat to eat.

These extinct animals may have the keys to save humanity. These animals had tough immune systems and no one has any clue whether their blood/plasma could be used as a medicine. These animals also may have been contaminated by humans when we crossed over from asia and got them sick. These animals could save us but no one wants to bring them back because they are afraid of a jurassic park like scenario. Crocodiles are dinosaurs, alligator gars are dinosaurs, coelacanths are dinosaurs, sturgeons are dinosaurs. We are surrounded by dinosaurs yet people are afraid they will attack the planet if we bring them back. nowadays we have tanks and if they got free we could exterminate the free ones in 30 minutes tops. we have drones that can exterminate them from high altitudes. 

Bringing back extinct viruses is the least of our issues. When a baby is born are you afraid of a virus your great grandmother had? No, because that happened all those years ago. Just look at horse shoe crabs, they are dinosaurs and their blood is used to make medicine. People are ignorant and paranoid. People are the worst predator, a dinosaur would go for something better and more defenseless like a cow , a cow has more meat than a human, a human is just guts and bone. 

Don Shirley
Don Shirley

I like Thomas' quote, "Present some data, or show us how to understand your non-scientific perspective.  I am open to (1) hearing your opinion, then (2) allowing myself enough critical thought to reject it. "  I think he was being honest without even trying.  He didn't say, "...allowing myself enough critical thought to accept or reject it."  He said in the selfsame sentence that he would use critical thought, then reject something he has not yet examined, the very antithesis of critical thinking.

Whether debating science, philosophy, religion or the like, critical thinking involves considering whatever information is presented, no matter how ludicrous it may sound, and then coming to a conclusion based on unbiased commonly held standards of evaluation.  By this standard, belief or disbelief in anything not experienced first hand is suspect to criticism.  Even debate over scientific date is subjective:  how was the data obtained, what was the desired outcome of the researcher, would the scientist in question dismiss credible evidence for a theory opposite to his own.  As history is replete with examples of "human contamination" in the scientific process, the truer a person is to that process, the less sure he can be about another man's conclusions.

I have been reading recently in Darwin's "The Descent of Man".  Having not previously read it, I anticipated a barrage of science that led to what Darwin found to be irrefutable conclusions.  Instead, it was a book of philosophy and science fiction, based on a basic and unproven premise.  In essence, it was a religious book filled with conclusions often so absurd as to defy any modern credulity.  He took what was not so much as a needle in the haystack of available data and constructed it into a straw man of his own design.  Because it had such appeal to the growing antitheistic movement of his time, it was readily received, not on its merit (I mean, really?), but on its philisophical premise and implication.  In other words, to accept Darwin meant no absolutes, no religion, supernatural, no God.  

Coming to the conclusion that there is no God is relatively simple:  adapt a naturalistic view of everything which by definition rejects not only any possible evidence of a Creator but engaging in any philosophical debate that considers one.  The irony here is that Darwin used a little science and a lot of philosophy to introduce to the world a doctrine of thought adapted by many who claim to accept nothing but "empirical evidence", a thing that Darwin's works severely lacked.  Strip the rhetoric and supposition from "The Origin of Species" and what is left is mostly junk science by modern standards.

My argument, then, philosophical based on my experience with people in general, is that Darwin's works were more about a desired outcome than pure science, or what I like to call "agenda based argument".  I have entered into many a discussion with individuals who draw from the most obtuse "facts" to make their case, much like my favorite scene from the TV series monk in which Randy and the chief are arguing about who the chief would save if both Randy and Monk were drowning.  It went something like this:

    Randy:  If Monk and I were both drowning, who would you save?

    Chief:  Well, that's easy, because I happen to know that Monk can't swim and that you are an excellent swimmer.

    Randy:  But what if I were holding an anchor?

    Chief:  Then let go of the anchor?

    Randy:  What if it was a family heirloom?

Until all people, religious or not, are willing to put their own current belief systems on the line and consider whatever evidence is presented objectively, there is no real discussion, only a fruitless exchange of opinions.

The more I read and study of evolution, the more I see it as a philosophical belief system and not pure science.  The ease at which people accept even the most radical ideas is one evidence to that fact, and the dogmatic intolerance of many evolutionists of alternate theories is another.


Uchi Khaleel
Uchi Khaleel

This is possible!!! Well anything is actually possible!!

Rob Wulf
Rob Wulf

Mark, enjoyed your comments and commentary and I can agree with most after 7 years of research on my own.  Where do these characters come from?  I also liked the article.

 Jim starts the chant by calling those who disagree with him as "nut job religious conspiracy theorists." WOW, he didn't leave anything to chance. Emma started the swearing, and then blamed you, Aaron accused you of calling others "fascists and tools" (I can whole heartedly agree with calling them TOOLS - as HE did!) Andres, does she know that global warming is caused by the Sun, volcanism etc.?  

She should take some time and start reading in the Scientific Journals, University Prepared Scientific Papers etc.  Andres, before you state that "ALL" scientists agree with Global Warming you should know that a great many Atmospheric scientists, Climatologists, Volcanologists, Astrophysicists etc. do not agree with the "Man Made" global warming argument.

The Man Made argument is ALL to support the "Cap and Trade" tax that is coming our way this year, via our illustrious President.  He could not get a bill passed through congress so he again circumvented (big word) Congress and is using the EPA to move forward. Hope these guys like $7.00 loaves of bread and $8.00 a gallon gas.

You should have asked her what caused the melting after the four major and 5 minor Ice Ages - GLOBAL WARMING!  Does she not know that satellite atmospheric and climate observations released this May have shown NO warming over the last 13 years?  OH YEAH, the ICE AGES were BEFORE SUV's,  big oil companies, mankind manufacturing and of course Al Gore.

These type of people believe in Evolution, even though they have not ever read anything on micro-biology which clearly places a wall in their way.  Note: If Evolution (Theory not fact) is a constant, how come many animals such as the coleanth, shark, turtles, alligators and crocks etc. etc. DO NOT EVOLVE.

And what of the Cambrian Explosion, and the 4 or 5 massive extinctions on Earth?  How did evolution continue?  

What they forget is that Evolution Theory was presented by a man who flunked out of Medical School in Scotland during his first year, and then received a Divinity Degree at Cambridge where he was qualified for the Clergy. (OOPS - did I mention Religion/) Then he took a boat trip and wrote unfounded ideas into a book.

If someone with that background did the same thing today - Would Anyone Listen?  Doubtful.  The smallest microbe known at the time was an amoeba, which is like a Brontosaurs in the world of micro-biology.

To be a factual "LAW" of nature it has been said to be applicable to ALL of nature.  Before they go crazy with refutations (big word) I will point out the Evolution Theory is classified as a social science and as such is not held to the same requirements as a true science.  To them that means it does not need to be challenged, is not subject to pier review, does not have to be duplicated etc.  It is totally subjective and NOT a religious argument as they would most assuredly argue. 

And definitely NOT a PROVEN scientific fact.  Proponents of evolutionary theory continually massage it to try and overcome logical, and scientifically sound arguments which are made almost daily in the growing world of Nano and Micro Biology, to name a few.

That brings me to “Irreducible Complexity” theory, which has been demonstrated in bio-chemestry and has been subject to considerable peer review. For your edification: “something is irreducibly complex when it is composed of several well-matched, interacting parts that all contribute to the basic function, wherein the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning.” Michael J. Behe, PHD in bio-chemestry, University of Pennsylvania,

  P { margin-bottom: 0.08in; }

Many have calculated the probability of chance or accidental origins of life in the so-called prebiotic soup. Imagine being handed a Rubik's Cube and being blindfolded, just to insure all moves were random. It has been calculated that a person would need 1,350 billion years, at a rate of one move per second, to solve the puzzle. That is 300 times the accepted age of the planet.


Our enzymes also serve to refute Darwin. There are some 2,000 of these catalysts in our body, and the chance of finding all 2,000 by accident “is about the same as the chance of throwing an uninterrupted sequence of 50,000 sixes with an unbiased dice. There are an estimated 1080 atoms in the universe, and our odds for random emergence of all enzymes are 1 in 1040,000. The possibility of an E.coli bacterium, a relatively uncomplicated cell, arising in the prebiotic soup over a period of 5 billion years has been estimated at 1 in 1010(110).

Even Carl Sagan, a renowned atheist, estimated the difficulty of the chance of evolution creating a human at 10-2,000,000,000.

Your picture of cutting off the branch you are kneeling on is a perfect analogy to your dogmatic stance on evolution theory. If all you have are some sophomoric smarmy comments to defend your position on evolution, you need some new material. By the way, where was your science?

Evolution has never been tested, has never been duplicated in a lab (Barry Hall only removed one component of his bacterium and added an artificial inducer IPTG, so B-glactosidase did not evolve in his experiments – it was by intelligent design - his), has never been mathematically validated. It is considered a social science and therefore is not subject to the scientific tests Darwinist's demand of counter theories.

Back in the 17th century there was a notion to separate rhetoric from true science, to remove the empty rhetoric, subterfuge and style embellishments so common. So the Royal Society in London called for its members:

“to separate the knowledge of Nature from the colors of Rhetorick, the devices of Fancy, or the “delightful deceit of Fables,' and to “reject all the amplifications, digressions, and swellings of style:to return to the primitive purity, and shortness, when men deliver'd so many things, almost in an equal number of words . . . bringing all things as near the Mathematical plainness as they can . . “ (qtd. In Pera 130.) them.

Nuff Said




Thomas Dew-Jones
Thomas Dew-Jones

I find it very funny to read the comments on this page.  People have been arguing with a guy of radical opinions.  His opinion is of little importance because he comes from an extremely polarized region where social mobility and inequality are some of the worst in the western world.  Instead of presenting factual data or even offering a non scientific method to data presentation, he simply calls names to anyone who tries to understand his opinion.  Present some data, or show us how to understand your non-scientific perspective.  I am open to (1) hearing your opinion, then (2) allowing myself enough critical thought to reject it. 

Don Poole
Don Poole

Who would have thought that our greatest need is a large economy size  Troll-Be-Gone?  If you're not serious about science, why are you here?

Joey Ragoni
Joey Ragoni

I saw the photo and thought this was a story about John Kerry... wrong discussion... my bad!

Frank Smithe
Frank Smithe

Ladies & Gentleman,

What we have here is Failure to Communicate.

Is their a Creator or Not..that made this world .

The God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob says

he did it.. Well, evolutionist will have to 

readjust their theories when he  returns.

Krypton

Kevin Cook
Kevin Cook

I agree with Ross this does not seem feasable. It is more likely that their clock is wrong on the age of the same.

Ross Olson
Ross Olson

A little math question, Hin Jang:  If half life of DNA is indeed 500 years, then how many bonds would be left after 10 half lives?  I get about 0.0001%... and that is just 5000 years.  so how is 7 million the max and 700,000 an easy stretch? I guess if you accept T Rex soft tissue lasting over 60 million years, it is possible to believe anything.   But that is belief without evidence -- in fact contrary to the evidence.

Mark McPhilimy
Mark McPhilimy

700,000 years? BWAAAAA. Brought to you by the same geniuses that made up global warming. Next they will argue that life appeared from nothing. Oh wait, they already do.

Here's some actual science for anyone who cares about such things these days: the furthest back that humans can forensically date any object with any certainty of reliability is about 1500 years. And that is a fact, Jack. Anything beyond 1500 years is pure speculation based on assumptions and non-empirical unverifiable hypotheses.

It actually gets more laughable = the dating methods used are based on fixed decay-rates or constants. Yet we've just learned (oh the humanity) that many such previously believed constants are not in fact constants but can change under different environments, such as the effects that may be produced by the rotation of the sun's core.

So believe what you want, but stop pretending your being scientific when all you're doing is masking your beliefs in a veil of scientific-sounding jargon, which sophists have been doing for a couple millennia now.

Don Shirley
Don Shirley

@Thomas Dew-Jones Being predisposed to rejecting an opinion is not, by definition, critical thought.  Being predisposed, however, to accept or reject an opinion is.  Your words bewray you, Thomas.

Adam Wargacki
Adam Wargacki

@Frank Smithe I don't think that's the question.  The questions is:  What is the history of life on this planet, and what are the mechanisms by which it has changed over time?
Fundamentally, the process of evolution has nothing to do with the origin of life, or matter, or the existence of a creator, or whether or not that creator is returning.   


Hin Jang
Hin Jang

@Ross Olson

In answering your question: "If half life of DNA is indeed 500 years, then how many bonds would be left after 10 half lives?"  . . . there will be millions upon millions of bonds, sufficient to reconstitute a full chain, if needed, via DNA sequencing.


Adam Wargacki
Adam Wargacki

@Ross Olson I'm just taking a stab at the math.  Let's say there are 25 trillion cells in a typical mammalian body of about 150lb (350L in volume).  If you took a 1mL tissue sample and extracted the DNA, you would have roughly 60-70M cells. 
Again let's say a typical chromosome is 250M base pairs (the size of human chromosome 1).  0.01% of remaining DNA would be 0.0001*250M*60M=1.75E12 remaining phosphodiester bonds.  That would give 7000X coverage of that chromosome (actually I'm not sure how you would calculate coverage in this situation, but this is my best shot). 

Adam Wargacki
Adam Wargacki

@Ross Olson
0.01%, you are off by 2 orders of magnitude....it happens.

I suspect that for the sample in question, the half life was considerably longer (frozen underground, perhaps protected by the structure of the chromosome), but I'm not sure.
With a chromosome length of several hundred million base pairs, and several billion copies of each chromosome, there should be DNA molecules of significant length left over to sequence.  Sequencing technology is great, you only need a few copies (theoretically just one) of each region to stitch together the entire genome. 

James Martin
James Martin

@Mark McPhilimy :

 Mark.  I'm interested in the dating methods used and how they determined the outcome of their hypothesis. 700k years seems to be a great leap esp for DNA considering it's half life and the reliability of dating methods.  I wonder why the article didn't include more details about it?

Aaron Minks
Aaron Minks

@Mark McPhilimyWhy so hostile? Calling people names and such? Questioning their intelligence? Doesn’t really seem necessary. How does that old saying go, “Rudeness is a weak man’s imitation of strength.” Just present your points and let them speak for themselves. 

Anyway, as to your first post…yawn…you make this too easy Marky. You said, “the furthest back that humans can forensically date any object with any certainty of reliability is about 1500 years.” Have you heard about dendrochronology? Every year a tree lives it produces a ring. This is something that can be observed in a human time scale. Plant a tree, let it grow 10 years, take a core sample, and count 10 rings. Ta-da! Of course we have done this with trees much older than that. There are living trees that have thousands of rings. What the what!? Yep, The President in Sequoia National Park has about 3,200 rings. Does that mean it is 3,200 years old? Well, yes it does. And that dating is precise to the exact year. Now, I’m no botanist but wouldn’t a tree be considered “any object”? I think it would and I think that would be “forensically dated”.

It gets better however. We have living trees that go back around 5000 years. But you can actually match these rings up on different trees. Varying temperatures, rainfall, and other environmental factors impact the rings so we can see matching differences in different trees. Significant events such as volcano eruptions, earthquakes, etc. can affect the rings as well. We use trees for which we know the date they were planted and we can see that all their rings match up in appearance with other trees for which we know the date and we start to develop an overlapping chain. We have actually matched live trees up with petrified ones so dendrochronology can date back about 11,000 years. 

You are probably thinking this can’t be used to date a rock right? I would first argue that a petrified tree is a rock but we can leave that aside for now. There is another form of dating that comes in to play here – sedimentary layers. Things like igneous rocks and petrified tree chunks get caught in these layers and if a tree ring of a certain age is found in a specific layer next to an igneous rock we have a decent idea of age. And the sediment layers act just like the tree rings. They form in layers around the Earth. We can line up and compare these layers to form a chain back through time. We can do the same with ice core samples. They form layers that date back over 100,000 years if you care to count. I haven’t even mentioned radiometric dating which was the only form you cared to fail to refute. 

Anyway, Igneous rocks are found in all these layers and we can use radiometric dating on the rocks. And guess what? The ages go in chronological order. The deeper the rock is in the sedimentary layer the older they tend to be. And we have about 14 different radiometric clocks. As you stated, some are influenced by solar activity but not all. And the variance is so small as not to really affect the dating. That’s because we don’t date to exact years. Depending on the radiometric clock the accuracy will change. So we come up with an approximation of time. All of which can accurately get us well beyond 1,500 years. A cool thing already mentioned is that the dating goes in order in the sediment but even cooler is that the dating of all the different clocks pretty much matches up with each other, the tree rings, the sediment, the ice cores, fossils, etc. There is a lot of agreement in these different clocks. 

There are other ways of dating that I don’t have time to get into here and they all pretty much corroborate each other. Molecular dating is fairly new and promising. The fossil record itself can be used for dating as they are found in the sedimentary layers. They have yet to find a rabbit in the Precambrian. The point is we can date many objects with exact to the year accuracy well beyond 1,500 years without relying on radiometric dating.  

Ema Gram
Ema Gram

@Mark McPhilimy Oh shut up. Where you alive a million years ago? Where you alive 500 years ago? No. Science is hypothesis and theory until proven wrong or right! Thats just the way it is and always has been. This artical is about ancient horse DNA so WTF does it have to do with anything about global warning?? Don't pretend you have any higher knowledge of the past than studied scientists who are actually trying to find SOMETHING.

Ema Gram
Ema Gram

@Mark McPhilimy  Oh shut up. Where you alive a million years ago? Where you alive 500 years ago? No. Science is hypothesis and theory until proven wrong or right! Thats just the way it is and always has been. This  artical is about ancient DNA so WTF does it have to do with anything about global warning?? Don't pretend you have any higher knowledge of the past than the studied scientists who are actually trying to find SOMETHING.

Kevin Meehan
Kevin Meehan

@Mark McPhilimy Your whit and pithy critique was enjoyable.  Where did you invoke a Higher Power v. Evolution discussion...I missed?

Atheist-Humanist posit that the collective-unconscience of today projected back in space-time continuum to self-generate human evolution i.e. we created ourselves.  Wait until the 'science' comes out to justify that arrogance....

As Geo. Carlin predicts, scientist of human stupidity, the Earth will fart and we'll all be gone!

Kevin Meehan
Kevin Meehan

@Mark McPhilimy  I love your whit, pith and exuberance.  Geo. Carlin, a Liberal, joked about us imagining we could effect the world climate.  Scientists are paid political stooges these days.  I prefer them in groups of 3 in black and white.  

I don't see any God reference in your critique...did I miss it?

Jim Cobra
Jim Cobra

You should probably leave science to the people who actually understand it... Or get a real education outside the "school for nut job religious conspiracy theorists".

I never understood why people hold such strong opinions about topics in which they are clueless.

D B
D B

@Mark McPhilimy

 Funny, we're able to date everything about the Romans ... and they're 1500+ years ... unless, perhaps, you're theorizing aliens came and set up a stage set 1500 years ago for humans and life "suddenly appearing"?

Honestly, I can't wait for 2000+ years from now when future morons will deny you ever existed.

Don Shirley
Don Shirley

@Adam Wargacki @Frank Smithe Yet Darwin in a letter to a friend asked that his theory be kept secret for fear of being rejected by the scientific community for the obvious anti-biblical implications of his conclusions.  Whether or not belief in a God or Messiah is true, the implications of evolutionary theory have turned many away from God and have turned many scientists into evolutionary automatons.

Kevin Meehan
Kevin Meehan

@Adam Wargacki @Ross Olson If the half-life of any substance is decaying, isn't it ALL decaying, not selectively preserving cells but 0.01% of the dna in all the cell structures?  Perhaps this can be 'stitched' together from the remaining (70M-1) cells but I'm not sure if my methodology is correct.  It would be difficult indeed wouldn't it?  Too bad Michael Crichton died....

Kevin Cook
Kevin Cook

@Adam Wargacki can't even get good DNA from a 4000 year old Egyptian mummy that was sealed of from the air and buried with the best technics.

Mark McPhilimy
Mark McPhilimy

@Aaron Minks @Mark McPhilimy

I called no one any names. I merely responded to personal ad hominems and exposed their fascistic hate-mongering. That you can’t differentiate the two reveals two possibilities:

A.You are either a liar who knows who was really doing the name-calling and responding to my post with such hostility but because they are intellectual (lol)bedfellows you cowardly refuse to stand up to your own side

B.You are a moron

“Marky” you say? You hypocrite. How can you attack my style and then employ it yourself? LMAO.

And ohhh you got me. I wrote “any object” but forgot about now-living trees. But of course I wasn’t talking about living objects was I? So great job pointing out that I should have included the word non-living when everyone with a brain knew exactly that’s what I meant since we are talking about a dead bone. Thus, your whole post is moot as it doesn’t affect, in the slightest, the merits of my argument. Talk about yawn.

Furthermore it COMPLETELY ignores the heart of the matter: unknown variables. You are great at making assumptions such as “The deeper the rock is in the sedimentary layer the older they tend to be”. But that’s only true, of course, if there were no major geological disaster in the earth’s past. And you know that to be true, right? Lol Yep, there were no ice ages or supercanes because you know all.

But there’s more. You wrote “some are influenced by solar activity but not all.” Not all, he says. Aaron knows all, remember folks. Aaron admits that decay-rates have just been discovered to be variable and yet is simultaneously adamant that some are constant. A few years ago Aaron was adamant that all rates were constant, just like the consensus amongst most scientists, right? lmao

“They have yet to find a rabbit in the Precambrian”

Well then, I guess you better conclude that they NEVER will. I’m glad you can so easily determine empirical truths, Aaron. Must be quite amazing to go through life omniscient.

This reminds me of the idiocy surrounding the fossil Lucy. Supposedly lived about 3 million years ago. Because of these bones, all of the history books have been altered to say that modern humans originated from Africa. Millions of children have been taught this as a fact. Yet last year they found even better fossil remains that were supposedly older than Lucy’s in… Israel. DOH!

Better go change those history books again, Aaron!

Mark McPhilimy
Mark McPhilimy

LOL "Oh shut up"! Yes, shut up those who dissent with your religious views. That's the attitude - maintain that inquisition fervor. Your ilk never changes, do they?

No, I wasn't living 500 or a millions years ago. THAT"S MY POINT DUMB***. None of us were alive so there is NO WAY to know the actual age of that horse bone, is there? Not unless humans create a time-machine, there isn't. But why deal with facts, eh?

You wrote, "Science is hypothesis and theory until proven wrong or right!"

Nope - science is nothing more than the discovery for TRUTH. Now to show what an uneducated tool you are, please tell me what are the two methods of scientific inquiry and what do they determine. Do you even know? Of course you don't. In fact I’ll bet $1000 right now that you don’t know.

What does this article have in common with global warming? Both make scientific claims that are nothing more than unvalidated non-empirical beliefs contradicted by the evidence.

Mark McPhilimy
Mark McPhilimy

@Kevin Meehan @Mark McPhilimy 

Thanks Kevin - old George sure could make me laugh. Being raised Irish Catholic made him all the more hilarious.

No, I never mentioned God or creation or evolution for that matter. The sophists just love to base their attacks on what they assume, not what they know.

Mark McPhilimy
Mark McPhilimy

@Jim Cobra 

HA! We have another winner. And yet you have no sense of embarrassment or shame? Your parents were winners too, I see.

Here's a little bit of helpful advice that may prevent you from posting like a fool in the future. Next time when you tell someone they are uneducated or clueless, you should actually validate your argument based on objective factors such as examples that prove your point or refutations that disprove mine.

But we all know why you didn't do that. Because you can't. That would require thinking on your part and most importantly it would require logic and empirical-based arguments.

I will never understand why people think that arguments based solely on ad hominem helps their cause when all it does is reveal how utterly stupid they are!

Mark McPhilimy
Mark McPhilimy

@D B @Mark McPhilimy 

Wow - you actually posted this as refutation to my argument? Let me guess, you attended a public school.

Do you just go through life hoping people will continue to think for you? What  - does it hurt your brain if you have to think for yourself.

Do you know what the difference between empiricality and an educated guess is? Where you sick the day they taught the scientific method?

We're talking about what science can empirically determine. Humans were around during the Roman age. Maybe you don't know but the Romans were humans. We date things from humanity's past based upon many many variables, such as how the pottery found nearby was created and the period it represents, etc. And yet those dates are nothing more than our best-educated guesses.

Now you are more than welcome to continue to equate guesses to empirical evidence but don't kid yourself that your being scientific. But you never really did anyways, right?

Adam Wargacki
Adam Wargacki

@Kevin Meehan It occurs to me that I didn't answer your actual question. 
No, you are a bit off.  Unlike atomic decay, the degredation of molecular bonds like the phosphodiester bonds in DNA is related to conditions/environment (temperature, moisture, pH, physical structure) in which the DNA finds itself. 
My hypothesis (just a musing) is that there might be some DNA in this horse bone that was wound up in a chromosome or in some hydrophobic environment where it would be less susceptible to decay.  The stated half life of DNA is probably experimental, that is, someone took some DNA and let it sit around for a while.  This horse bone in it's pit in Alaska was a unique environment, so I'm not surprised that the rate of decay might be slower. 

Adam Wargacki
Adam Wargacki

@Kevin Meehan

Let's say you have 1 million identical long chains (any visual approximation of a chain will do).  Now break half the bonds at random.  Some of the chains will be pretty much destroyed and some will remain intact.  If you have a sufficiently large number of chains, the population can survive many half lives while maintaining at least one complete copy. 
However, you don't need a full intact copy in order to sequence the full chain.  DNA sequencing works by "reading" short length of chain (they can come from a conglomeration of cells originally) then a computer program identifies the overlaps and stitches them together virtually.  This happen many times, and if the computer spits out the same result every time we usually figure it's the right answer.  Additionally, the genome in question was aligned to a modern horse genome, which be all accounts should be very very similar. 
I love this stuff, do you have any more questions?

Adam Wargacki
Adam Wargacki

@Kevin Cook
That's a totally different sample.  A mummy would contain liquid water (Mummies really aren't that dry compared with ice) that would aid in enzymatic and non enzymatic decay of DNA.  I don't know that elimination of air would do much to help preserve DNA if water is around.  The best "technics" were meant to preserve the form of the mummy, not the molecular integrity of the DNA.   

Mark McPhilimy
Mark McPhilimy

@Aaron Minks @Mark McPhilimy

“somehow I am using your tactics. I was actually just attempting to push a button.”

Ding ding ding – give the slow-one a prize. I too use that tactic. What – over your head?

“I assumed that when you were calling people fascists and tools you were name calling but I guess that was some other way of placing labels on people with the intent to insult that I just haven't heard of yet. Again I would question the strength of your arguments that you would need to employ such tactics.”

Yes, you shouldn’t assume especially at your IQ level. It won’t work out well for you. I never called people fascists or tools. I empirically proved that they were using fascistic ad hominem attacks in place of evidence-based reason, which makes them a tool. Those are absolutely objective descriptors as revealed by the evidence of their own writings. You didn’t go after them, though. Funny – why is that? Lmao

“Wouldn’t petrified trees be non-living objects that we can accurately date past 1,500 years?”

Nope because you cannot prove with overlapping rings anything. You can speculate and your speculation may even be correct. But you’ll never be able to prove it. Secondly there aren’t enough examples to even make your argument forensically valid. Thirdly, you are still left with assuming certain variables. You sure do like to assume. Empiricality requires a bit more, sorry.

I know the difference between a theory and a fact. Do you? This article makes ‘fact-based’ statements that are, in reality, mere speculation. You are fine with that. I am not. That alone reveals who seeks truth and who seeks dogmatic comfort.

So, if anyone were to find a rabbit in the Precambrian layer that would be a real problem for evolution. In the current body of knowledge that hasn’t happened yet. I think it would be very exciting if it did.”

It hasn’t happened yet? Another absolutist statement from Mr. Omniscient.

I don’t know about rabbits but are you absolutely sure similar life forms have not been found in those layers? Of course you are – you are your own god.

not all radiometric clocks are influenced by solar activity”

How do you know? Where does the arrogance come from that allows you to make such an absolutist statement?

“I refuted your point about solar impact on all clocks.”

No you didn’t because I never made any such point. Furthermore, solar influence is just a theory – we’re not absolutely sure of the cause (or causes). But I do get a laugh how you, once again, turn an assumption into a fact.

“Not enough to spoil the clocks it does affect by any means.”

Again with the absolutist know-it-all complex! Maybe not under present conditions but there may be conditions in which that changes. Regardless, you don’t know enough to make that claim and should know better not to make it, if you truly desired to be objective.

“I really don’t see the point in s****ing on every step in the pursuit when you could take your considerable energy and put it toward improving what we know.”

Well maybe you would if you grasped the idea that truth will never be discovered if the pursuit contains people and steps that erroneously elevates supposition to empirical certainty.

“As to your comments about the fossils in Israel I would say you can’t have your cake and eat it too. You can’t say we don’t have the ability to date beyond 1,500 years (again - dendrochronology) and then say we found a 400,000 year old fossil in Israel.”

Wow – really? My argument was really that much over your head?

In the first place, I am not saying it – they are – and that was the WHOLE point. They are saying that the new fossil is 4 million years old. And THEY were saying the fossil is older than Lucy – not me.

I’m trying to show you the absurdness of basing your foundational beliefs upon supposition.

Secondly, I never said 400,000 years. You did. Don’t put words in other people’s mouths. It’s the last resort of a loser.

“Now Mark, the psychologist in me is curious to know where all this anger and hostility comes from.”

Turn that gaze on yourself but beware of what you’ll find. I am neither hostile nor feel a shred of anger, as a few of the posters above have validated. That you see anger and hostility when you read my comments says a heck of a lot more about you than it does me. After all those idiots responded to my post with NOTHING but personal attacks you chose to criticize me using belittling rhetorical devices. You did so because you care more about your dogma than science. If you were truly interested in the pursuit of knowledge then you would have desired an edifying debate when YOU instigated this conversation. Instead, YOU chose the childish belittling sophist route. And I too know why you did that because I too am very familiar with the modus operandi of your ilk.

And thanks for the wishes of good luck however you don’t need luck when you have God’s grace = something we all need!

Aaron Minks
Aaron Minks

@Mark McPhilimy @Aaron MinksI add a "y" to your name and somehow I am using your tactics. I was actually just attempting to push a button. Mission accomplished! I assumed that when you were calling people fascists and tools you were name calling but I guess that was some other way of placing labels on people with the intent to insult that I just haven't heard of yet. Again I would question the strength of your arguments that you would need to employ such tactics.  

I believe I pointed out that with overlapping rings we can date petrified trees to the exact year back 11,000 years. Wouldn’t petrified trees be non-living objects that we can accurately date past 1,500 years? Yes. So I think I covered both living and non-living and completely refuted that inane 1,500 year comment. That wasn’t the only inaccurate statement you made in your first post or even your first paragraph. You said, “Next they will argue that life appeared from nothing. Oh wait, they already do.” Who argues that Mark? Can you cite a reference and a name of any scientist that has ever said that life appeared from nothing. Talk about sophistry! Seriously, give me an actual name and reference of a relevant scientist that makes such a claim. Most scientists I talk to will openly say they don’t know how life began and then they will go on to share their favorite hypotheses. I’m interested to know how you think it started. Did Jesus do it Mark?

I didn’t make assumptions about the depth of the rocks being older. Are you sure you totally understand the definition of the word assumption? Best look it up. I was only referring to the body of knowledge that we now possess. It generally supports that the deeper the layer the older the rocks. I mean, I guess I could find some sources for you on this if you like. The body of knowledge comment also applies to my statement about rabbits in the Precambrian. This is why natural selection is still called a theory. In order to be a theory it has to be something that could possibly be disproven. So, if anyone were to find a rabbit in the Precambrian layer that would be a real problem for evolution. In the current body of knowledge that hasn’t happened yet. I think it would be very exciting if it did. 

Tell me how you make my comment that not all radiometric clocks are influenced by solar activity as being the same as saying all other clocks are constant? I don’t see the logical step from one to the other grammatically. I refuted your point about solar impact on all clocks. I would also tell you that the impact we have discovered is very minute. Not enough to spoil the clocks it does affect by any means. I also pointed out that many other forms of dating corroborate each other. This means that it is the best we have to work with according to our current body of knowledge. And with all the corroboration it works fairly well. It easily gets us past the 1,500 year mark. You know, science never claims to know the exactness of all things. As you pointed out it is the pursuit of truth. I really don’t see the point in s****ing on every step in the pursuit when you could take your considerable energy and put it toward improving what we know.

As to your comments about the fossils in Israel I would say you can’t have your cake and eat it too. You can’t say we don’t have the ability to date beyond 1,500 years (again - dendrochronology) and then say we found a 400,000 year old fossil in Israel. And still you got this all wrong. You really need to check your sources. The fossil Lucy (Australopithicus – not human) is dated at about 3 million years. The fossils in Israel were dated about 400,000 years old at the latest. So they weren’t older than Lucy. It would have taken you like 2 minutes to Google that. The Israel fossils are actually human (homo-sapiens) remains. Some scientists hypothesize that life originated in Africa and that point hasn’t been refuted yet. It may well be and that would be exciting. Some also think humans originated there as well and this Israel discovery does call that into question. Again, this isn’t cause for contempt but rather excitement. This is a significant discovery that is being explored by many researchers the world over. It doesn’t mean that we ever claimed it to be fact or presented it in any text book as anything other than a prevailing hypothesis. 

Now Mark, the psychologist in me is curious to know where all this anger and hostility comes from. Why do you feel the need to belittle others to validate your points? Why the name calling? Tell me about your mother. Just kidding of course. I’m well acquainted with your ilk. I know better than to engage any further in a battle of wits with an unarmed man. Best of luck in life – you’re gonna need it. 


Mark McPhilimy
Mark McPhilimy

@Ema Gram @Mark McPhilimy 

Thank you for proving my point. All you have to offer is petty whining and personal insults. That tells everyone the kind of person you are.

If you were an intelligent person, you would have responded to me (remember you felt the need to comment to me - not me to you) with an argument that actually refutes my points. You didn't that. So we know you are not an intelligent person. Thus logic dictates that you, of all people, should be the last to waste people's time with your valueless input.

Here endeth your education!

Ema Gram
Ema Gram

@Mark McPhilimy   Firstly *F* you...I didn't intend to get into name calling fight with a lifeless loser like you. Stop being an a** on nat geo. No one cares about your friggin media based education. I do not feel inferior to you. Truth is you are no more a judge of someone's intelligence than you are of your own egotistical bigotry. You "sir" are annoying, not your idiotic self proclamed "truths" whether they are disputable or not.

It's not that I don't understand "big words" it's just that there are smaller ones that mean the same just the fact that you take time to type them out shows how much smarter you think it will make you look. You are too full of yourself go have a psych fight with someone else(though it seems you are at war with everyone else on this thread).

Kevin Meehan
Kevin Meehan

@Mark McPhilimy @Kevin Meehan  I knew a girl in Catholic HS who's mom's family raised George in the Bronx.  His parents were hopeless alcoholics.  Each generation can persist and grows...but no guarantee!

Mark McPhilimy
Mark McPhilimy

@Jim Cobra 

Jim, if you are going to refute someone's argument for whatever motive then it is ALWAYS your responsibility to do so based on reason and non-fallacious arguments.

If you are too lazy or simply too stupid to do that, Jim, then STFU and cease from commenting, which has added nothing of value to the debate.

And in the very least don't be a hypocrite. "If you're so smart, prove them wrong," Take your own advice. If you are so smart and I am so wrong then prove it. Or for God’s sake, at least try. Be a man. How could your parents raise such a person?

Jim, scientists are human and humans are fallible. History is replete with examples of vast consensus amongst humans about a certain theory that ONE INDIVIDUAL comes along and soundly disproves. Furthermore, skepticism is a foundational attribute of all good knowledge-seekers. One doesn’t have to know MORE than all the rest, one needs only know a single modicum of evidence that contradicts some unanimity of belief to disprove it.

Galileo didn’t need to know more than Ptolemy or all the rest nor did he need to understand elliptical orbits to disprove geocentricity. No, all he had to do was show that one moon (Jupiter’s) was not circling the earth. And with the aid of a telescope he did just that. How did the scientific community respond? They had him thrown in jail and put to trial, forcing him to recant. Sound familiar?

Now, regarding global warming, all I need do is show you the proponents’ own models and the predictions of temperature increase that THEY made to prove that their own data has now been invalidated by the ACTUAL temperatures that were categorically recorded. If their own computer models are wrong then obviously the science that they based those models on is also wrong. If people continue to believe that so-called ‘science’ then they do so motivated by a desire to validate their own dogma and not to be scientific or objective.

Regarding this so-called 700,000 year old bone, all I need do is show you how the proponents’ own dating-methods are by their own admittance based upon unknown variables, which can NEVER be known (unless man were to invent a time machine). To add insult to injury, those who rely so heavily on hypothetical dating-methods have spent a century falsely claiming that certain rates are eternally constant. Yet we know now that some rates are actually variable, depending upon certain conditions. Now since none of us were alive in the past then it’s impossible for anyone to claim they empirically know the conditions of said past. And since they cannot know past conditions then how can they maintain certainty regarding constancy? Anyone who does so is not a scientists but a propagandist.

Mark McPhilimy
Mark McPhilimy

@Ema Gram @Mark McPhilimy @Jim Cobra 

Ema - I am so sorry my words were too big for you. When writing to you from now on I'll definitely dumb it down. Better?

And yes, I tend to believe people should be raised with a certain degree of manners and be taught to debate using reason not school yard sophistry. (Oops - there's one of them big words)...

Ema Gram
Ema Gram

@Mark McPhilimy @Jim Cobra Using big words doesn't make you any smarter. Listen to yourself "Mark". Your bashing a random stranger's parents on a national geographoic artical.

Jim Cobra
Jim Cobra

It's not my responsibility to educate every d***** that posts something stupid on the internet. I could show you every fact and piece of evidence involved and you'd still keep spouting your party line and insisting science is all a big conspiracy and somehow insist that YOU know more than the thousands of scientist who have worked their entire lives for hundreds of years to shead light on this topic.

If you're so smart, prove them wrong, I'm sure they'd give you a nobel prize and you'd be set for life. But you wont, becasue you can't. You're nothing more than a backseat driver.

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