The Instigator
Paleophyte
Con (against)
Winning
5 Points
The Contender
GarretKadeDupre
Pro (for)
Losing
0 Points

The Roraima Pollen Paradox

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Post Voting Period
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after 1 vote the winner is...
Paleophyte
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 1/10/2015 Category: Science
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,407 times Debate No: 68095
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (3)
Votes (1)

 

Paleophyte

Con

My thanks in advance to my worthy opponent for this unusual opportunity to demonstrate that my namesake never existed.

I shall oppose the following:

The discovery of pollen in samples of the Proterozoic Roraima Formation [1] falsifies the theory of evolution.

Burden of Proof is on Pro, who may use this first round for debate.

The final round shall be used for rebuttal and concluding arguments. No new evidence shall be presented.

[1] Stainforth, RM (1966) Occurrence of Pollen and Spores in the Roraima Formation of Venezuela and British Guiana. Nature 210, 292 - 294.
Original Abstract: http://www.nature.com...
Full-Text Reprint: http://rpasmd.org...
GarretKadeDupre

Pro

P1: The Theory of Evolution predicts that pollen first evolved in the Early Cretaceous (135 myrs ago).(1)
P2: Fossil pollen has been found in Precambrian (1,700 myrs ago) rock.(2)
P3: The Theory of Evolution got a quantitative prediction wrong by more than an order of magnitude (by more than a factor of 10).

Conclusion: The Theory of Evolution is falsified.

(1)http://paleobiology.si.edu...
(2) Con's first source.
Debate Round No. 1
Paleophyte

Con

My thanks again to my worthy opponent for this wonderful opportunity to demonstrate that my namesake never existed.

My opponent argues as follows:

P1: The Theory of Evolution predicts that pollen first evolved in the Early Cretaceous (135 myrs ago).

Strictly speaking, the fossil record shows that flowering plants first appeared 135 Ma but I'll concede the broad point that finding pollen from the Precambrian would be a big problem for the Theory of Evolution.

P2: Fossil pollen has been found in Precambrian (1,700 myrs ago) rock.

I concede this point with the proviso that more recent radiometric dating [1] resolves much of the confusion in the radiometric ages that Stainforth mentions [2].

P3: The Theory of Evolution got a quantitative prediction wrong by more than an order of magnitude (by more than a factor of 10).

P3 only follows from P1 and P2 if it can be demonstrated that the pollen in the Roraima Formation rocks was deposited at the same time as the sediments. If the pollen was introduced following the formation of the rock then it doesn't matter what the age of the rock is. The pollen could be any age that is younger than the rock. I will now demonstrate that my worthy opponent cannot demonstrate that the pollen is an original component of the rocks.

Context: The paper that is pivotal to this discussion [2] was published by R. M. Stainforth in the Letters section of Nature in 1966. The Letters section is not where full-fledged research papers are published but is instead for brief notices to the scientific community on a variety of matters. In this case, a notification of a peculiar discovery and preliminary data that could lead to a situation where "distorted interpretations develop from inadequate data."

What is more important to note is that the paper was published in 1966. It will be half a century old next year and is quite old by the standards of any scientific paper. Ironically, geology is one of our youngest sciences. The paradigm shift that was plate tectonics only gained widespread acceptance and understanding within the geological community between 1950 and 1960 [3]. Put simply, at the time this paper was published most geologists were still learning the reasons why mountains formed. There were no computers, no scanning electron microscopes, no electron microprobes. Figure 3 in Stainforth's paper states that elevation was determined by aneroid barometer. Any conclusions drawn from this paper must be re-evaluated in light of advances to our understanding over the last 50 years.

From the Paper: What conclusions did Stainforth and his associates arrive at regarding the discovery of pollen in Proterozoic rocks? None. Stainforth was quite clear on this point. The paper begins by stating that pollen and spores had, surprisingly, been recovered from Proterozoic rocks. It goes on to detail the methods and data. Stainforth then gives a balanced presentation of two separate explanations for this data that has arisen amongst his colleagues. One camp favours a Modern Pollen Hypothesis (MPH) whereby pollen entered the rock in recent times, likely carried by groundwater. A second camp favours an Original Pollen Hypothesis (OPH) whereby pollen is part of the original rock and the radiometric dating of the Roraima Formation is called into question. The paper ends with, "As stated, we offer no solution to the paradox." The author of the paper stated quite clearly that they could not arrive at a conclusion, yet my opponent would claim that the pollen is clearly part of the original rock and clearly Proterozoic. If the scientists of the time with all of the data at hand could not arrive at this conclusion then how can my opponent do so on the basis of a brief paper in Nature?

The Rock: The rock in question is described as a quartzitic hornfels. This is a silica-rich rock that has been baked due to proximity of a magmatic intrusion at some point in its past. The description of the rock as a "fairly typical hornfels" constrains the maximum temperature to between 400 C and 600 C [4]. It is described as containing cordierite, muscovite, biotite, quartz. Clay minerals and chlorite are absent. The rock exhibits original fine banding as shown below [from 2].

Fig. 2 from Stainforth, 1966: Paruima hornfels (crossed nicols); large crystals are all cordierite in micaceous ground, with original fine quartz banding still preserved; biotite may be seen to right of centre of field. (x 150)

Could the pollen be original? A key question that lead Stainforth and his associates to be unable to resolve this question was whether or not the pollen could have withstood the 400 C - 600 C temperatures under which the hornfels was formed. Today the colour of pollen and other microfossils is routinely used to determine the paleotemperatures and maturation of oil fields [5]. This technique is typically limited to temperatures not significantly greater than 200 C due to darkening of organic components and at the temperatures that the hornfels was produced at pollen is reduced to graphitic remnants which have only recently been identified as pollen microfossils [6]. The Roraima pollen is described as having "an uncompressed preservation highly unusual except in young sediments." This pollen could not have been an original component of a rock that was formed at 400 C to 600 C. It is obviously a later contaminant.

Is there evidence for contamination? Stainforth describes the rock collected as "cleaves along finely laminated bedding planes which are coated with limonite." Limonite is not strictly a mineral but rather a mixture of hydrated ferric oxides and hydroxides [7]. It is a nasty orange-brown concretion that will be immediately familiar to anybody who has ever done body work on their vehicle. It forms when water and atmospheric oxygen interact with iron-bearing minerals. Its presence on the bedding planes of the samples is evidence of water flow. It is not unreasonable to suggest that the same water that deposited the limonite also deposited pollen, transferred by groundwater from the top of Mount Roraima.

Summary: I have demonstrated that:

  1. Stainforth's 1966 paper makes no conclusions about the pollen found in Roraima Formation Proterozoic rocks.
  2. The pollen described must be a later addition as the metamorphic temperatures would have reduced it to graphite otherwise.
  3. Stainforth's 1966 paper provides evidence for the mechanism of this contamination.

This is overwhelming evidence that the pollen found in the Roraima Formation Proterozoic rocks cannot be used to falsify the theory of evolution.

Sources:

[1] Santos, JOS et al. (2003) Age, source, and regional stratigraphy of the Roraima Supergroup and Roraima-like outliers in northern South America based on U-Pb geochronology. GSA Bulletin 115 (3): 331-348.

http://gsabulletin.gsapubs.org...

[2]Stainforth, RM (1966) Occurrence of Pollen and Spores in the Roraima Formation of Venezuela and British Guiana. Nature 210: 292 - 294.

Original Abstract: http://www.nature.com...

Full-Text Reprint: http://rpasmd.org...

[3] Kious, WJ and Tilling, RI (1996) This Dynamic Earth: the Story of Plate Tectonics U.S. Geological Survey.

http://pubs.usgs.gov...

[4] http://www.tulane.edu...

[5] Batten, DJ (1982) Palynofacies, palaeoenvironments and petroleum. Journal of Micropalaeontology 1: 107-114.

http://jm.lyellcollection.org...

[6] Schiffbauer, JD et al. (2007) Ultrastructural and Geochemical Characterization of Archean–Paleoproterozoic Graphite Particles: Implications for Recognizing Traces of Life in Highly Metamorphosed Rocks. Astrobiology 7(4): 684-704.

http://online.liebertpub.com...

[7] https://www.princeton.edu...

GarretKadeDupre

Pro

  • "I'll concede the broad point that finding pollen from the Precambrian would be a big problem for the Theory of Evolution."
This concession is worthless. My opponent must either concede that Evolution predicts pollen first evolved 135 myrs ago, or argue that it predicts a different date.

If my opponent refuses to do either, then he is effectively rendering the theory unfalsifiable and, by extension, unscientific. A fundamental requirement of a scientific theory is that it makes falsifiable predictions.
  • "I concede this point with the proviso that more recent radiometric dating [1] resolves much of the confusion in the radiometric ages that Stainforth mentions"
Is my opponent conceding that the pollen has been found in Precambrian rock, or not?
  • "P3 only follows from P1 and P2 if it can be demonstrated that the pollen in the Roraima Formation rocks was deposited at the same time as the sediments."
I appreciate the concession that P3 follows from P1 & P2, but my opponent has neglected to address my conclusion. If he doesn't remark on whether my conclusion follows from my three premises, he is wasting our time by dancing around the most crucial point of this debate.
  • "I will now demonstrate that my worthy opponent cannot demonstrate that the pollen is an original component of the rocks."
And I will demonstrate that I can.
  • "the paper was published in 1966. It will be half a century old next year and is quite old by the standards of any scientific paper."
Yes, the paper is quite old; maybe if we let it get a bit older, it will yellow with age until it's unreadable, or even get lost, then Evolutionists won't have to worry about it.
  • "Ironically, geology is one of our youngest sciences."
Geology is older than Evolution itself. Lyell founded Modern Geology in the early 1800s[3], and Darwin's Origin of Species wasn't published until decades later.

Without Lyell's geological timescale, Darwin would not have had his long ages on which to base Evolution. The biblical timescale was in vogue at this time.
  • "If the scientists of the time with all of the data at hand could not arrive at this conclusion then how can my opponent do so on the basis of a brief paper in Nature?"
Because the scientists are working under a false dichotomy. They consider only two options. One, the radiometric age of the rock is correct, and the evolutionary age of the pollen is correct, and pollen simply crept in later. Or two, the radiometric age of the rock is wrong, but the evolutionary age of the pollen is correct, and no need for the ad hoc contamination hypothesis. Both cases refuse to doubt the evolutionary age of the pollen, but there's a third option:

Both the
radiometric age of the rock, as well as the evolutionary age of the pollen, are wrong. This is my position; however, I only need to prove that the evolutionary age of the pollen is wrong to win this debate.
  • "This pollen could not have been an original component of a rock that was formed at 400 C to 600 C. It is obviously a later contaminant."
This is false. A recent experiment confirmed that tiny, organic fossils can survive 500 C.[4]
  • "Stainforth describes the rock collected as "cleaves along finely laminated bedding planes which are coated with limonite."[...] Its presence on the bedding planes of the samples is evidence of water flow. It is not unreasonable to suggest that the same water that deposited the limonite also deposited pollen, transferred by groundwater from the top of Mount Roraima."
My opponent is guilty of quote-mining. Voters, read the quote in context:
  • "The rock cleaves along finely laminated bedding planes which are coated with limonite. Every effort was made to avoid these planes[...] Nevertheless, microfossils of the same type as before were recovered."
My opponent's limonite argument is worthless because pollen fossils are in the rock even where limonite is not present.

My opponent made two main arguments to support his pollen contamination hypothesis. One, that pollen could not have remained intact during the rock's formation since it involves high temperatures. Two, limonite indicates pollen contamination via water.

I proved the first argument false by citing a recent experiment, and I proved the second argument false by showing that pollen was still found even when the paleontologists avoided areas that contained limonite.

[3]http://kids.britannica.com...
[4]vsgc.odu.edu/src/Conf08/Papers08/Schiffbauer - Paper.pdf
Debate Round No. 2
Paleophyte

Con

""I'll concede the broad point that finding pollen from the Precambrian would be a big problem for the Theory of Evolution."

This concession is worthless. My opponent must either concede that Evolution predicts pollen first evolved 135 myrs ago, or argue that it predicts a different date.

If my opponent refuses to do either, then he is effectively rendering the theory unfalsifiable and, by extension, unscientific. A fundamental requirement of a scientific theory is that it makes falsifiable predictions."

I am sorry that my opponent find my concession worthless. I was simply trying to tidy up some loose terminology while conceding the underlying point. Since my opponent feels that it is necessary to elaborate:

- The theory of evolution makes many predictions, any and all of which are falsifiable [1]. It does not predict the exact age at which any particular event will occur. This is evolution, not geochronology.

- One of these predictions is that organisms evolve from common ancestors. Ancestors must precede descendants. In the case of plants the order of ancestry is, very loosely: green algae → mosses → club mosses → ferns → gymnosperms → flowering plants [2].

- The fossil record, in conjunction with a variety of geochronological methods shows that the first flowering plants evolved approximately 135 Ma.

- Consequently, the discovery of flowering plants at 1800 Ma, when no terrestrial plants of any form should exist for another 1300 Ma, would pose a significant problem for either the theory of evolution, the fossil record or the dating methods and most likely all three.

""I concede this point with the proviso that more recent radiometric dating [1] resolves much of the confusion in the radiometric ages that Stainforth mentions"

Is my opponent conceding that the pollen has been found in Precambrian rock, or not?"

I am. I merely wished to state that much of the confusion about the exact age described by Stainforth in the final paragraph of his paper has been resolved by more modern research.

""P3 only follows from P1 and P2 if it can be demonstrated that the pollen in the Roraima Formation rocks was deposited at the same time as the sediments."

I appreciate the concession that P3 follows from P1 & P2, but my opponent has neglected to address my conclusion. If he doesn't remark on whether my conclusion follows from my three premises, he is wasting our time by dancing around the most crucial point of this debate."

I am sorry that your conclusion is feeling neglected. I felt that it was obvious that it followed from the premises once you restated them properly.

"Geology is older than Evolution itself. Lyell founded Modern Geology in the early 1800s[3], and Darwin's Origin of Species wasn't published until decades later."

We can go into this minor point if you really feel it necessary. My point was simply that the last major paradigm shift in geology, plate tectonics, gained general acceptance between 1950 and 1960, as opposed to the much older paradigm shift that Darwin brought to biology.

""If the scientists of the time with all of the data at hand could not arrive at this conclusion then how can my opponent do so on the basis of a brief paper in Nature?"

Because the scientists are working under a false dichotomy. They consider only two options. One, the radiometric age of the rock is correct, and the evolutionary age of the pollen is correct, and pollen simply crept in later. Or two, the radiometric age of the rock is wrong, but the evolutionary age of the pollen is correct, and no need for the ad hoc contamination hypothesis. Both cases refuse to doubt the evolutionary age of the pollen, but there's a third option:

Both the radiometric age of the rock, as well as the evolutionary age of the pollen, are wrong. This is my position; however, I only need to prove that the evolutionary age of the pollen is wrong to win this debate."

So, more accurately, the scientists of the time, with all the data at hand could not come to a conclusion. How can my opponent, on the basis of a brief paper in Nature, arrive at a third conclusion that they never considered?


""This pollen could not have been an original component of a rock that was formed at 400 C to 600 C. It is obviously a later contaminant."

This is false. A recent experiment confirmed that tiny, organic fossils can survive 500 C.[4]"

I'm sorry but you appear to have misunderstood my point. The pollen in Stainforth's paper is described as follows, "G. Fournier, palynologist of the Mene Grande Oil Company, processed the samples and recovered well-preserved pollen and spores." The source that you have cited makes the same statement that mine does, that pollen heated to 500 C is reduced to graphite. The abstract of your source 4 states "We interpret these graphite discs as deflated and compressed microfossils..." These graphite discs, only recognized as microfossils in the last decade, are clearly not the pollen that Stainforth and his associates were so excited about. Graphite discs are not well-preserved pollen.

Given our current understanding of palynology, the pollen that Stainforth describes has clearly never undergone the metamorphic conditions observed in the hornfels rocks that host it. The only possible conclusion is that they entered the rock after its formation.

""Stainforth describes the rock collected as "cleaves along finely laminated bedding planes which are coated with limonite."[...] Its presence on the bedding planes of the samples is evidence of water flow. It is not unreasonable to suggest that the same water that deposited the limonite also deposited pollen, transferred by groundwater from the top of Mount Roraima."

My opponent is guilty of quote-mining. Voters, read the quote in context:

"The rock cleaves along finely laminated bedding planes which are coated with limonite. Every effort was made to avoid these planes[...] Nevertheless, microfossils of the same type as before were recovered.""

My opponent should take care before making such serious charges. Quote mining implies deceit and dishonesty rather than a desire to simply be brief.

Stainforth's paper does state that "Every effort was made to avoid these planes..." however the photomicrograph from the paper clearly shows that these bedding planes are present at a sub-millimeter scale and thus unavoidable.

Fig. 2 from Stainforth, 1966: Paruima hornfels (crossed nicols); large crystals are all cordierite in micaceous ground, with original fine quartz banding still preserved; biotite may be seen to right of centre of field. (x 150)

The group amongst Stainforth's colleagues that oppose the view that the pollen could have been contamination contends, "The Roraima sandstones are quartzitic, of low permeability, hence carriage of extraneous pollen through them by percolating water seems highly improbable. Even if this process could occur, entry of such pollen and spores into the nonporous hornfels lacks an explanation."

This argument works both ways. Impermeable, nonporous rock should not only prevent contamination, it should prevent simple removal of any pollen that was originally present. It should keep pollen in as effectively as it keeps it out. However, the discussion of the palynological assemblage states, "T. van der Hammen (Leiden) recognizes a mixture of Mesozoic and Cenozoic elements, but suspects that they represent foreign material concentrated along cleavage planes as, after cleaning fragments ultrasonically, he found the matrix practically barren." A simple ultrasonic cleaning washed the pollen away so the rock must be more permeable than has been suggested. This presents a simple route for transfer of pollenn from adjacent bedding planes, where limonite shows obvious contamination, to unmineralized bedding planes a few inches away. More significantly, if the pollen is not tightly bound in nonporous and impermeable hornfels then it must be contamination.

Summary:

My opponent attempts to provide a third explanation for why pollen might be found in the Roraima Formation hornfels but fails to provide any reason or sources that would support it.

My opponent has attempted to demonstrate that pollen could survive 400 C - 600 C temperatures, yet his own source clearly states that these conditions reduce microfossils to graphite, not the "well-preserved" pollen described by Stainforth. The pollen that Stainforth describes is clearly not an original component of the rock.

My opponent has attempted to demonstrate that pollen could not have contaminated the samples citing efforts made to avoid obviously contaminated material. The photomicrograph shows that the bedding planes are unavoidable.

Simple cleaning techniques demonstrate that the pollen is easily removed, consequently it is not tightly bound in the nonporous and impermeable hornfels but instead contamination.

Any one of these points is sufficient to defeat his premise that the pollen is original to the Roraima Formation hornfels.


Sources

[1] Predictions - Is Evolution Science?

http://chem.tufts.edu...

[2] The Diversity of Plant Life The Major Divisions of Plants

http://www.yale.edu...

GarretKadeDupre

Pro

  • "One of these predictions is that organisms evolve from common ancestors. Ancestors must precede descendants."
This is too vague to qualify as a scientific prediction. Is the prediction that all organisms evolve from common ancestors? If one traces any lineage back far enough, one is certain to find an organism that did not evolve from an ancestor, thus falsifying that prediction.

"Ancestors must precede descendants" is not a prediction, but a tautology.
  • "[T]he discovery of flowering plants at 1800 Ma[...] would [likely] pose a significant problem for[...] the theory of evolution[...]"
  • "I am sorry that your conclusion is feeling neglected. I felt that it was obvious that it followed from the premises once you restated them properly."
I'm glad we could clear that up. So, all that remains for me to win this debate is prove that the pollen fossils are not contamination.

My opponent cannot call the dating of the rock into question in order to save his case; the rock was dated in accordance with the principles of modern geology-- the same principles upon which Evolution is founded. Any objection to the dating of the rock is tantamount to an objection to Evolution itself.
  • "My point was simply that the last major paradigm shift in geology, plate tectonics, gained general acceptance between 1950 and 1960, as opposed to the much older paradigm shift that Darwin brought to biology."
Lyell's long ages provided the necessary foundation for Darwin's Evolution. These two paradigm shifts are comparable to that of Copernicus; they all played a huge role in destroying faith in the Old Testament.

Plate tectonics did no such thing. In fact, creationist scientists are using plate tectonics to provide a physical mechanism for Noah's Flood[5], thereby bolstering faith in the Old Testament.
  • "So, more accurately, the scientists of the time, with all the data at hand could not come to a conclusion. How can my opponent, on the basis of a brief paper in Nature, arrive at a third conclusion that they never considered?"
Because I'm not locked into an Evolutionary paradigm.
  • "I'm sorry but you appear to have misunderstood my point. The pollen in Stainforth's paper is described as [well-preserved]"
  • "The abstract of your source 4 states "We interpret these graphite discs as deflated and compressed microfossils"
My opponent can't make it past the abstract?

The paper does begin by discussing some graphite discs interpreted to be pollen fossils. But on page 3, under the heading "Experimental heating of organic-walled microfossils", an experiment is referenced where tiny, organic fossils were heated to 500 C to determine whether they could survive the hot rock formation process and still be morphologically intact.

According to the abstract of the experiment report,[6]
  • "[R]ock samples containing dense populations of [tiny, organic fossils] have been heated to 500°C (± 2.5°C) for varying lengths of time[...] The morphologies of the heated [fossils] are retained, and no features related to graphitization have been observed."
My opponent's argument that pollen could not survive the rock formation process is completely and utterly obliterated.
  • "Stainforth's paper does state that "Every effort was made to avoid these planes..." however the photomicrograph from the paper clearly shows that these bedding planes are present at a sub-millimeter scale and thus unavoidable."
No. That isn't bedding planes you're looking at, but quartz bands. Don't believe me? Just look at the text you yourself underlined beneath the photo.

My opponent's argument that pollen slept in through cracks is soundly defeated.
  • "[I]f the pollen is not tightly bound in nonporous and impermeable hornfels then it must be contamination."
Contamination from what? Aliens? There is no living pollen in the vicinity that matches the pollen found in the rock:
  • "G. Fournier[...] was able to compare the recent pollen of the area with the assemblage in the rocks, and has stated that they are not the same."
G. Fournier knows what he's talking about. He's a palynogloist, a.k.a. a pollen expert.
  • "A simple ultrasonic cleaning washed the pollen away so the rock must be more permeable than has been suggested[...]"
Not true, and to call it a "simple" cleaning is highly misleading. According to Wikipedia[7], ultrasonic cleaning "produces high forces on contaminants[...] to thoroughly remove all traces of contamination tightly adhering or embedded onto solid surfaces."

The fact that pollen fossils could be removed via ultrasound is proof that ultrasound is effective, not proof that the rock is porous. To the contrary, it was "dense enough to sound when struck with a hammer."

There is another important fact to be noted:
  • "[T]he face which was sampled must have been deep within the formation until quite recent times."
Also:
  • "[If contamination] be granted, it would have been operative for a long period, and a mixed suite of spores and pollen should be expected."
Furthermore, my opponent has neglected to mention that the cave in which these pollen fossils were found is beneath "an overburden of hundreds of feet". Are we really to believe that pollen survived to slowly seap through hundreds of feet of rock? That would be some incredibly resilient pollen!

Considering that only a very narrow range of pollen types were found, none of which could be matched to any living pollen in the area, it would seem my opponent is proposing the following absurd scenario:

A very select few pollen-producing plants inhabited the region all by themselves, managed to contaminate rock through and through to a depth of several hundred feet with pollen via slow-seeping rainwater, then abruptly went extinct without a trace and became replaced by the modern variety of plants, and all this within a very short amount of time!

That's far too convenient.

[5]https://answersingenesis.org...
[6]https://gsa.confex.com...
[7]http://en.wikipedia.org...

Debate Round No. 3
Paleophyte

Con

Because I'm not locked into an Evolutionary paradigm.

Credentials please. If you are going to start postulating and defending novel hypotheses that the scientists who had all the data never considered then we need to evaluate your professional capacity to do so.

According to the abstract of the experiment report,[6]

"[R]ock samples containing dense populations of [tiny, organic fossils] have been heated to 500°C (± 2.5°C) for varying lengths of time[...] The morphologies of the heated [fossils] are retained, and no features related to graphitization have been observed."

More completely:

"The morphologies of the heated acritarchs are retained, and no features related to graphitization have been observed. Preliminary Raman analysis reported here illustrates a decrease in D:G ratios of heated acritarchs as compared to spectra of unheated acritarchs, suggesting that the heated samples are becoming more graphitized."

Thus, we have two studies of naturally occurring microfossils reduced to graphite at 500 C and an experimental study showing that microfossils become more graphitized at 500 C. In addition to this we have the entire concept of palynofacies, the use of pollen color, produced by thermal degradation of organic material, to determine paleotemperature [1]. The fossil fuel industry has been successfully using this technique for over a quarter century to evaluate coal and oil field maturity [2]. This is why all three of the palynologists mentioned by Stainforth were working for oil companies.

"G. Fournier, palynologist of the Mene Grande Oil Company, processed the samples and recovered well-preserved pollen and spores. Subsequently, L. Nijssen and J. A. Sulek, palynologists of Compañía Shell de Venezuela and Creole Petroleum Corporation, respectively, processed other pieces and recovered identical plant microfossils."

No. That isn't bedding planes you're looking at, but quartz bands. Don't believe me? Just look at the text you yourself underlined beneath the photo.

The quartz bands are the coarse portion of graded bedding [3]. Three beds are visible in the photomicrograph with fine-grained tops toward the upper right of the image.

<a href=http://regentsprep.org...; />

There is no living pollen in the vicinity that matches the pollen found in the rock:

"G. Fournier[...] was able to compare the recent pollen of the area with the assemblage in the rocks, and has stated that they are not the same."

G. Fournier knows what he's talking about. He's a palynogloist, a.k.a. a pollen expert.

Again, more completely:

"The palynological assemblage has not yet been matched conclusively against any known suite, a fact which is not surprising in view of the distance from control sections of known age and the highly endemic character of the flora of today, and probably the geological past, on the isolated Roraima Plateau. G. Fournier, by utilizing the herbarium of J. Steyermark, was able to compare the recent pollen of the area with the assemblage in the rocks, and has stated that they are not the same."

This is hardly surprising given the diverse and unusual nature of the flora in the area. Mt. Roraima is home to a wide variety of plants, many of which are endemic to the tepui [4]. Moreover, the contamination may have occurred at any time or times in the past 135 Ma.

If my opponent is going to make allegations of quote mining he should take greater care with his own quotes.

According to Wikipedia[7], ultrasonic cleaning "produces high forces on contaminants[...] to thoroughly remove all traces of contamination tightly adhering or embedded onto solid surfaces."

The fact that pollen fossils could be removed via ultrasound is proof that ultrasound is effective, not proof that the rock is porous. To the contrary, it was "dense enough to sound when struck with a hammer."

Ultrasonic cleaning removes surface contaminants, not material within solid, nonporous rock. Ultrasonic cleaning removed the pollen, thus it is either a surface contaminant or the rock is more porous than suggested. In either case, the pollen is contamination, not bound within or between minerals and part of the original rock.

"[T]he face which was sampled must have been deep within the formation until quite recent times."

Unimportant if we are dealing with contamination transported via groundwater.

"[If contamination] be granted, it would have been operative for a long period, and a mixed suite of spores and pollen should be expected."

No description of the pollen assemblage(s) is available so we can't evaluate this statement.

Furthermore, my opponent has neglected to mention that the cave in which these pollen fossils were found is beneath "an overburden of hundreds of feet".

These are undercuts in a cliff, not caves. Caves are typically carved by water, which I suspect my opponent will want to avoid. This is the Guiana Highlands. It rains on a daily basis. All that is required is water percolating down through a joint or crack in the rock, carrying pollen with it. This isn't even implausible, much less the absurd scenario that my opponent constructed.

Now let's examine a few conspicuous absences:

The lack of plants: As Stainforth states, "The absence of macroscopic plant remains in the Roraima Formation is also noted, despite its assumed continental (?fluviatile) origin." No plant fossils are found in the Roraima Formation. The rocks in question are sandstone and shale, which commonly preserve plant fossils yet we find none. All we have for evidence is a few pollen grains, none of which are described or even shown in the photomicrograph. If we have conditions where pollen can easily be preserved we would expect to find the host plants preserved as well. Not even a fragment or root cast was found.

The lack of further work: Stainforth's second sentence of his paper is, "Individual authors will doubtless publish detailed stratigraphic and palynologic accounts of the occurrence in due course." No further work was done. Stainforth himself published up until 1982 and lived until 2002 but never published another word on this pollen [5]. Stainforth's paper is cited just once in the scientific literature, one year later [6]. The topic never resurfaces in half a century. On the one hand we are presented with the wholly implausible notion that a discovery that would have radically altered our understanding of the natural world was forgotten or ignored by everybody who worked on it. On the other hand, we are presented with the much less exciting but more realistic possibility that the pollen was simply a matter of contamination and warranted no further attention.

Summary:

- Pollen heated to the temperatures experienced by the Roraima hornfels is converted to graphite. This has been documented in two cases observed in nature, one laboratory experiment and is the basis of the technique of palynofacies. This is not observed in the Roraima pollen described so it must be contamination.

- Pollen is removed by ultrasonic cleaning demonstrating that it isn't bound within the rock but is on surfaces or bedding planes. This demonstrates that it is not part of the rock. Again, contamination.

- The absence of any plant fossils mitigates against the pollen being produced at the time that the rock was formed.

- The lack of any further work demonstrates that the pollen from the Roraima hornfels did not have an explanation worthy of further publication. This suggests a mundane explanation rather than one which would have led to a paradigm shift in geology and biology at the very least.

Sources:

[1] Batten, DJ (1982) Palynofacies, palaeoenvironments and petroleum. Journal of Micropalaeontology 1: 107-114.

http://jm.lyellcollection.org...

[2] Ercegovaca, M and Kostić, A (2006) Organic facies and palynofacies: Nomenclature, classification and applicability for petroleum source rock evaluation. International Journal of Coal Geology 68(1-2): 70-78.

http://www.sciencedirect.com...

[3] Graded Bedding - USGS

http://education.usgs.gov...

[4] Green, R (2009), The Lost World of Venezuela's Mt. Roraima, Los Angeles Times (July 24, 2009)

[5] R. M. Stainfoth: Stratigrapher and Micropaleontologist

http://rpasmd.org...

[6] Hargraves, RB (1967) Palaeomagnetism of the Roraima Dolerites. Geophys. J. Int. 16 (2): 147-160.

GarretKadeDupre

Pro

  • "Credentials please. If you are going to start postulating and defending novel hypotheses that the scientists who had all the data never considered then we need to evaluate your professional capacity to do so."
We are 4 rounds in, and now you're demanding I show credentials? Howcome whenever you first challenged me to this debate, you didn't warn me that I'd have to have a science degree? You knew from the start that my position required defending "novel hypotheses", so you are being incredibly disingenous.
  • "Thus, we have two studies of naturally occurring microfossils reduced to graphite at 500 C and an experimental study showing that microfossils become more graphitized at 500 C."
The microfossils retained their morphology and no graphitization was detectable without the aid of spectroscopy analysis, and even then, this spectroscopy analysis (called Raman analysis) was inconclusive.[8] That's a long way from becoming reduced to graphite. There is no reason to assume pollen is unable to remain "well-preserved" in metamorphosed rock. Indeed, the fact that in the experimental heating of microfossils, they retained their morphology with no observable graphitization, demonstrates pollen is capable of being well-preserved in metamorphosed rock.
  • "The quartz bands are the coarse portion of graded bedding"
They are not limonite bands though. Your entire argument on this point was based on the idea that limonite indicates contamination via water, but there is no limonite in this quartz bedding, so your argument is moot.
  • "The palynological assemblage has not yet been matched conclusively against any known suite, a fact which is not surprising in view of the distance from control sections of known age and the highly endemic character of the flora of today"
If you want to argue the pollen is contamination, you're going to have to explain why only a small range of pollen types is in this rock, when many types of pollen are living in the area. What's so magical about this pollen? It's more reasonable to think this pollen was fossilized in the rock at a time when there were fewer types of pollen living in the area. Futher, this position doesn't require assuming pollen can survive seeping through hundreds of feet of rock to end up "well-preserved" when discovered.
  • "Ultrasonic cleaning removed the pollen, thus it is either a surface contaminant or the rock is more porous than suggested"
Misleading. The paper doesn't say all the pollen could be removed with ultrasonic cleaning, suggesting that the ultrasonic cleaning only removed some of the pollen that happened to be sticking out of the rock. Besides, how in the world can one claim to have removed all the pollen from a peice of hornfel rock, since hornfel rock is not transparent? You can only say the rock is "practically barren" of pollen if you crumble it to little peices, in which case, you're exposing the pollen fossils deep within the solid rock to the ultrasonic cleaning process which can then dislodge it with it's high pressure.
  • "[If contamination] be granted, it would have been operative for a long period, and a mixed suite of spores and pollen should be expected."
  • "No description of the pollen assemblage(s) is available so we can't evaluate this statement."
The text is clearly insinuating that a mixed suite of pollen was not found, indicating the pollen was fossilized when the rock was created.
  • "These are undercuts in a cliff, not caves."
No relevant difference.
  • "All that is required is water percolating down through a joint or crack in the rock, carrying pollen with it. This isn't even implausible"
Yes it is. It's implausible that pollen survived a treck through hundreds of feet of rock to be found by scientists and declared "well-preserved."
  • "Now let's examine a few conspicuous absences: The lack of plants[...] If we have conditions where pollen can easily be preserved we would expect to find the host plants preserved as well."
Not true at all:
  • "[P]ollen are normally retrieved from their host sediments as disjunct entities, separate from the original parent plant mean[ing] that their natural affinities are often obscure."[10]
  • "Stainforth's second sentence of his paper is, "Individual authors will doubtless publish detailed stratigraphic and palynologic accounts of the occurrence in due course."
  • No further work was done. Stainforth himself published up until 1982 and lived until 2002 but never published another word on this pollen"

That's because, as he admitted, he was unable to resolve the paradox. This is due to his bias in favor of Evolution. Since I don't care about Evolution, I can easily resolve the paradox:

Evolution was wrong when it predicted no fossil pollen in Precambrian rock!

Summary:

  • "Pollen heated to the temperatures experienced by the Roraima hornfels is converted to graphite. This has been documented in [a] laboratory experiment[...] so it must be contamination."

Absolutely false. The experiment did not convert the microfossils to graphite, in fact, the only way one could detect the presence of any graphite at all was via high-tech spectroscopy, and even then, this analysis was inconclusive.

  • "Pollen is removed by ultrasonic cleaning demonstrating that it isn't bound within the rock but is on surfaces or bedding planes. This demonstrates that it is not part of the rock. Again, contamination."

False again. The paper didn't say all the pollen could be removed this way; further, it is not even possible to determine if all the pollen is removed without crumbling the rock into peices, which would involve dislodging any genuinely fossilized pollen anyways!

  • "The absence of any plant fossils mitigates against the pollen being produced at the time that the rock was formed."

Fossil pollen is rarely found with it's host plant, so this is just another unfounded claim.

  • "The lack of any further work demonstrates that the pollen from the Roraima hornfels did not have an explanation worthy of further publication. This suggests a mundane explanation rather than one which would have led to a paradigm shift in geology and biology at the very least."

This doesn't make sense. The paper ended with an admission that no resolution of the paradox could be found. The fact that this verdict was hasn't been overturned for almost 50 years doesn't mean a mundane explanation was found; it demonstrates the exact opposite!

[8]http://vsgc.odu.edu... (page 3)
[9]http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu...
[10]http://www.ucl.ac.uk...

Debate Round No. 4
Paleophyte

Con

We are 4 rounds in, and now you're demanding I show credentials?

I'd have been content with a source that had credentials. We are, as you say, four rounds in and you haven't provided a single source for your hypothesis.

The microfossils retained their morphology and no graphitization was detectable without the aid of spectroscopy analysis, and even then, this spectroscopy analysis (called Raman analysis) was inconclusive.[8]

Depending on which of my opponent's sources you read this experiment was either inconclusive [Pro's 4] or suggests graphitization [Pro's 6].

That's a long way from becoming reduced to graphite.

And 250 days at 1 atmosphere [Pro's 4] is a long way from the thousands of years that pollen would be heated for in natural circumstances. Hence the difference. Moreover, natural case studies [Cons's R2S7 and Pro's 4] show complete conversion to graphite. Two good natural analogs beat one short-term experiment that may or may not have agreed with them anyway.


There is no reason to assume pollen is unable to remain "well-preserved" in metamorphosed rock.

All of the technique of palynofacies estimation of paleotemperature says otherwise [Con's R2S5 and R4S1 and R4S2]. By 200 C these pollen grains should have been blackened. By 400C they should be graphite. You appear to have neglected that point.

They are not limonite bands though. Your entire argument on this point was based on the idea that limonite indicates contamination via water, but there is no limonite in this quartz bedding, so your argument is moot.

If you enjoy denying the antecedent. Limonite demonstrates water. Lack of limonite does not demonstrate lack of water. Bedding, observed in the photomicrograph, demonstrates a path that water could follow into the rock which is adjacent to paths that water did follow into the rock.

Fig. 2 from Stainforth (1966). Paruima hornfels (crossed nicols); large crystals are all cordierite (not pollen!) in micaceous ground, with original fine quartz banding still preserved; biotite may be seen to right of centre of field. (x 150) (Bold is Con's, not Stainforth's)

If you want to argue the pollen is contamination, you're going to have to explain why only a small range of pollen types is in this rock, when many types of pollen are living in the area.

Stainforth's paper never mentions the number of pollen types identified. The terms "suite" and "assemblage" are used indicating more than one type but how many more is never stated. The objection that "a mixed suite of spores and pollen should be expected" is peculiar given that the pollen was never identified and thus may well have been a mixed suite.

"Ultrasonic cleaning removed the pollen, thus it is either a surface contaminant or the rock is more porous than suggested"

Misleading. The paper doesn't say all the pollen could be removed with ultrasonic cleaning, suggesting that the ultrasonic cleaning only removed some of the pollen that happened to be sticking out of the rock.

Not at all. The exact words used were "practically barren". No cleaning technique will be 100% effective but "practically barren" indicates that more than just the pollen grains on the surface were removed. A large majority of pollen grains were removed, demonstrating that they were contamination. If the large majority of grains are contamination then, in the absence of any further evidence, the small minority that remain cannot be declared with any certainty to be original.

Besides, how in the world can one claim to have removed all the pollen from a peice of hornfel rock, since hornfel rock is not transparent? You can only say the rock is "practically barren" of pollen if you crumble it to little peices, in which case, you're exposing the pollen fossils deep within the solid rock to the ultrasonic cleaning process which can then dislodge it with it's high pressure.

Ultrasonic first, crush second. As you say, crushing it first would allow the ultrasonic to remove all pollen regardless of origin but is the type of amateur mistake that I'm fairly certain Dr. T van der Hammen didn't make. Unless you're calling his competence into question.

The text is clearly insinuating that a mixed suite of pollen was not found, indicating the pollen was fossilized when the rock was created.

The text is more clearly stating that none of the pollen was ever identified so it's peculiar that one of the two camps thought that it couldn't be a mixed suite. Sadly, we're dealing with just a preliminary report.

It's implausible that pollen survived a treck through hundreds of feet of rock to be found by scientists and declared "well-preserved."

Hardly. These are microfossils we're dealing with, not bowling balls. Joints and fractures can be several inches across and could provide a pathway for water to transport the pollen without even scuffing it.

"[P]ollen are normally retrieved from their host sediments as disjunct entities, separate from the original parent plant mean[ing] that their natural affinities are often obscure."[10]

And all that says is that we typically find pollen separate from the plants. It does not suggest that we should not expect to find any plants at all. Since half a plant grows underground, they fossilize very well. Yet there's an entire mountain of Roraima Formation sediments and not a single leaf of root cast. We are left wondering what produced the pollen.

That's because, as he admitted, he was unable to resolve the paradox.

Science thrives on paradox. Questions are what drives it. The LHC. The Hubble. The Human Genome project. All undertaken to explain the paradoxical and answer questions. Had Stainforth and his colleagues actually discovered a paradox of this magnitude we would expect paper after paper saying at least, "We still have no answer." Scientists should have quarried Roraima for its paradoxical pollen.

Yet neither Stainforth nor his colleagues nor any other scientist has ever deemed the matter worth enough attention to even publish a single follow-up. No description of the pollen, not even an indication of how many types. This is not the thunder of a paradigm-shifting discovery, it is the quiet sigh of the mundane.

Summary

- Stainforth's paper describes "well-preserved pollen and spores". The rock that these pollen and spores came from was heated to between 400 C and 600 C. Two papers and the entire technique of palynofacies shows that at these temperatures the pollen should have been converted to graphitic discs unrecognized as pollen in 1966. My opponent seeks to refute this with a single experimental study lasting a mere 250 days which described its results as "inconclusive" at best. Clearly this "well-preserved" pollen entered the rock after it formed.

- The absence of fossils of the smallest fragment of the plants that produced the pollen mitigates against it being an original component of the rock. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence but it does point and wiggle its eyebrows suggestively.

- Limonite-coated bedding planes adjacent to the rock samples indicate water flow within the rock near the samples. The photomicrograph of the rock shows that these bedding planes are present on a sub-millimeter scale. This is a plausible mechanism for pollen to have entered the rock.

- The absence of any further work on this topic since 1966 demonstrates that Stainforth, his colleagues and the scientific community as a whole found it to be unworthy of further mention. Contrary to what my opponent has suggested, this is not the hallmark of a paradigm-shifting discovery.

- Ultrasonic cleaning of fragments of the samples rendered them "practically barren" of pollen. The fact that the pollen was removed demonstrates that it is not trapped within or between mineral grains of the rock. It was removed by a surface-cleaning technique so it is a surface contaminant, likely adhering to bedding planes.

Conclusion

Pollen grains reported in samples of the Roraima Formation hornfels (Stainforth, 1966) cannot be shown to be an original part of the rock and cannot be given the same age as the rock. They are of indeterminate age and thus useless for falsifying the theory of evolution.

GarretKadeDupre

Pro

  • "Depending on which of my opponent's sources you read this experiment was either inconclusive [Pro's 4] or suggests graphitization [Pro's 6]."
There is no contradiction. The analysis that "suggests" graphitization was "inconclusive."
  • "And 250 days at 1 atmosphere [Pro's 4] is a long way from the thousands of years that pollen would be heated for in natural circumstances."
250 days at 500 C. That's almost 1,000 degrees Farenheit. I guarantee you that no pollen fossil on earth has ever been maintained at 500 C for thousands of years. I will remphasize that even being held at almost 1,000 degrees Farenheit for over 8 months did not completely convert any of the microfossils to graphite:
  • "[D]ense populations of [microfossils] have been heated to 500°C (± 2.5°C) for varying lengths of time. [N]o features related to graphitization have been observed."[6]
Just because the Roraima pollen wasn't completely graphitized doesn't mean it's contamination.
  • "Moreover, natural case studies [Cons's R2S7 and Pro's 4] show complete conversion to graphite. Two good natural analogs beat one short-term experiment that may or may not have agreed with them anyway."
Your R2S7 (Round 2 Source 7?) is talking about limonite and says nothing about graphitization. I think you referenced the wrong source.

My source #4 only says that:
  • "We interpret these graphite discs as deflated and compressed microfossils that were originally[...] prokaryotic or possibly eukaryotic cells."
All they see are graphite discs in metamorphosed rock and retroactively interpret them to be organic fossils. That's a long way from proving that rock metamorphism always reduces pollen to graphite in all instances.
  • "All of the technique of palynofacies estimation of paleotemperature says [pollen can't remain well-preserved in metamorphosed rock.] [Con's R2S5 and R4S1 and R4S2]. By 200 C these pollen grains should have been blackened. By 400C they should be graphite. You appear to have neglected that point."
"Palynofacies estimation" is trumped by experimental results; specifically, the experiment which heated microfossils to 500 C for over 8 months and observed no graphitization. Your claim that pollen should have been reduced to graphite at 400 C is unfounded.
  • "Bedding, observed in the photomicrograph, demonstrates a path that water could follow into the rock which is adjacent to paths that water did follow into the rock."
You've been speaking throughout this debate as if the presence of bedding of any kind indicates contamination via water, which is simply untrue. Bedding demonstrates no such thing as what you suggest. Bedding is an artifact of the rock formation process and has nothing to do with future water flow (or pollen contamination), unless there's a crevice between the beddings, which isn't evidenced in your photo.
  • "Stainforth's paper never mentions the number of pollen types identified. The terms "suite" and "assemblage" are used indicating more than one type but how many more is never stated. The objection that "a mixed suite of spores and pollen should be expected" is peculiar given that the pollen was never identified and thus may well have been a mixed suite."
The pollen was not identified, but it is clearly insinuated that only a few types were present in the rock, in contrast to the vast variety living in the area.
  • "Ultrasonic first, crush second. As you say, crushing it first would allow the ultrasonic to remove all pollen regardless of origin but is the type of amateur mistake that I'm fairly certain Dr. T van der Hammen didn't make. Unless you're calling his competence into question."
Ultrasonic cleaning is a high-tech and high-pressure process. It's capacity to dislodge miniscule pollen grains is not proof of anything but it's effectiveness.
  • "Joints and fractures can be several inches across and could provide a pathway for water to transport the pollen without even scuffing it."
So you want us to believe that a crack hundreds of feet deep allowed pollen to seep down and be recovered by researchers in a well-preserved state? Fine. However, from the original paper:
  • "[S]amples of beds[...] from a seemingly correlative level[...] 25 miles east of the original locality[...] independent investigations were made of this material, and the same [pollen] was recorded."
So we're to believe that the same type of fortunate crevice was stumbled upon by researchers 25 miles away? And it just so happened to contain the same restricted suite of pollen? That's too convenient. Are there these profoundly deep crevices present all over the area for miles around, and something special about them only permits a special suite of pollen to seep into them?
  • "And all that says is that we typically find pollen separate from the plants. It does not suggest that we should not expect to find any plants at all."
It also says:
  • "Most fossil spore and pollen grains are studied in a dispersed state"
It's very clear. Pollen fossils are rarely found with their host plant.
  • "Science thrives on paradox. Questions are what drives it. The LHC. The Hubble. The Human Genome project. All undertaken to explain the paradoxical and answer questions."
This is a debate about a specific forensic case, not a philosphical discussion on what science is.
  • "Yet neither Stainforth nor his colleagues nor any other scientist has ever deemed the matter worth enough attention to even publish a single follow-up. No description of the pollen, not even an indication of how many types. This is not the thunder of a paradigm-shifting discovery, it is the quiet sigh of the mundane."
It is not the quiet sigh of the mundane. It's the ultimate manifestation of frustration; the case is so damning for the evolutionary age of the pollen, and by extension, Evolution itself, that no scientist dares touch it with a ten-foot pole.

If the Roraima pollen is indeed fossilized within the rock, Evolution is falsified. Please vote accordingly. Thank you!

Debate Round No. 5
3 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Posted by dtaylor971 2 years ago
dtaylor971
Oh wow... I don't know how to respond to this debate. Imma do some research
Posted by Paleophyte 2 years ago
Paleophyte
ELO requirements removed.
Posted by GarretKadeDupre 2 years ago
GarretKadeDupre
I do not like ELO requirements for voting. I will accept either open voting, or a panel of selected judges, in which case we will have to discuss which judges to nominate.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Ramshutu 2 years ago
Ramshutu
PaleophyteGarretKadeDupreTied
Agreed with before the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Agreed with after the debate:Vote Checkmark--0 points
Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:Vote Checkmark--3 points
Used the most reliable sources:Vote Checkmark--2 points
Total points awarded:50 
Reasons for voting decision: Sources to Con; as the nature of the sources cited were more reliable (peer reviewed); Pro cited few, mainly generic articles (including AiG), which is less reliable. Conduct/grammar tied; I don't beleive I noticed anything bad on either side. Con simply blows away Pro's arguments. A well reasoned, logical approach to what was found, why it could not be real pollen, an explanation of how it could be there all tied back the processes, evidence and original articles. Pro regularly mis-understood, repeated himself in a few instances and used poorly reasoned counter arguments to deflect the majority of Con's explanations.