Don’t pass along the dinosaur clone story!!

What is it about social media stories that are so bizarre yet people have a need to believe them?

As I tweeted a few days ago after seeing this story go around, no, no one cloned a dinosaur. It’s a baby kangaroo and YOU SHOULDN’T BELIEVE THE STUFF YOU READ ON YOUR FRIENDS’ FACEBOOK WALLS!

British Scientists Supposedly Cloned a Dinosaur — Here’s What Really Happened – PolicyMic.

The news: A story from hoax site News-Hound claiming that British scientists from Liverpool’s John Moore University have successfully cloned an Apatosaurus is getting a lot of traction on the Internet this weekend. But … no, they haven’t.

Never mind the lack of sources, links or the various ludicrous stories lining News-Hound’s sidebar (the name Gemma Sheridan, for example, was used in a previous hoax claiming Google Earth found a woman trapped on an island for seven years). Or that it would take approximately 10 seconds to verify that the photo of a “dinosaur” baby is actually a newborn, furless macropod (a kangaroo or wallaby). Somehow some people bought it…

A lot of people bought it or wanted to, wishing it was true. Of course we wish it’s true. That’s not a good excuse to pass it on to others. Even though we pass satire or jokes along realizing they are just for fun, (I know it’s hard to believe) but some people can’t tell it’s a joke! [Understanding the #CancelColbert Campaign]

The public really isn’t up on the state of science to know that we are no where near being able to clone a dinosaur. There is no such thing as a Jurassic Park. However, people get their sense of science from the media. When the media is messy and distorted, as it is, it is difficult to tell what is genuine or what has perhaps a grain of truth to it but it not quite right. This is why paranormal investigators and Bigfoot hunters are depicted on TV as doing “science”. This is why people are fooled by those in white lab coats promoting utter nonsense. This is why people think homeopathy is medicine. It’s a stretch but our lack of science literacy does hurt us and make us look foolish in all sorts of ways.

The next time you see a story like this, check the source. Find a good science website or just Google it to see if it shows up on reputable news sites. It takes a minute but it prevents you from looking like a doofus.

Not a baby dinosaur but a baby kangaroo.

Not a baby dinosaur but a baby kangaroo.

Here is a way to test pictures you find on the web. See how to debunk viral photos in seconds using image search | Skeptical Software Tools.

  13 comments for “Don’t pass along the dinosaur clone story!!

  1. Angela
    March 31, 2014 at 9:03 AM

    It’s the battle I fight on Facebook daily. It’s a battle I chose, so I am not complaining–but it never ceases to amaze me how angry some people get when I post the facts to something they share. Some are cool about it but the answers are always the same.

    1) I shared it just in case (this is usually with missing kids that are outdated or hoaxes)
    2) Yeah, it’s probably fake but I thought it was cool
    3) Snopes is run by liberals, you can’t believe what they say. (that one still makes me facepalm)

  2. March 31, 2014 at 9:06 AM

    Not to mention that DNA ceases to be readable after 1.5 million years so anything older than that (dinosaurs died out 65 million years ago, folks) is impossible for us to ever clone. Those species are are gone forever and will only ever come back through natural selection. If the evolutionary chain ever takes that turn again that is. Impossible to tell.

    But hey, we got birds, right? That’s just as fun!

  3. Jon O
    March 31, 2014 at 9:15 AM

    Current methods might not be able to sequence DNA past a certain age and state of preservation, but I wouldn’t be too quick to discount future developments in this field.

  4. skeptictmac57
    March 31, 2014 at 9:41 AM

    I like to compare that process to evolving super strains of harmful organisms. The ‘antibiotics’ work well at first,but eventually the heartier strains manage to become immune to evidence from first one source,then another,until the BS becomes pandemic.

  5. March 31, 2014 at 9:49 AM

    Well, it certainly degrades. There will never be that great sample because of time alone – the information is lost. So, we might try to fill in the missing pieces with other stuff, it will not be the same.

  6. March 31, 2014 at 10:21 AM

    I’m pretty sure I read somewhere that even if you could somehow clone a dinosaur (ignoring your correct post above), that the change to the atmosphere would pretty much mean they wouldn’t be able to survive anyway. Though, I guess if you managed to break the laws of genetics to clone one in the first place, that would be an easy one to fix too.

  7. Jon O
    March 31, 2014 at 1:10 PM

    I’m not disagreeing that the DNA degrades or that, with the technology as it currently stands, we could sequence older DNA. I just think that it’s imprudent to bet against the advancement of science, particularly genetics. The statistical analysis of biological data (bioinformatics) is a burgeoning field and may be able to provide a lot of reconstructive help. Even if the DNA bonds are absent, new recovery techniques could provide information regarding the number of base pairs present in a sample, and the ratios of nucleotides. Automate times 1 million samples, correlate by computer, fit it to a chicken genome, and viola, T. rex. Maybe.

  8. John
    March 31, 2014 at 6:56 PM

    Think once. Think twice.
    Think: Don’t facebook.

    We managed to survive a couple of thousand years without a facebook status or ‘likes’ Now we can’t seem to function without it.
    Disappointing really.

  9. terry the censor
    March 31, 2014 at 7:09 PM


  10. March 31, 2014 at 8:55 PM

    It’s a strange habit to get into. Then you can’t get out.

  11. April 1, 2014 at 4:22 AM

    If people just started from a position of doubt we would be in a much better place!

  12. eddi
    April 1, 2014 at 4:56 AM

    If some bunch ever builds a dinosaur, I expect it will be after genetic coding is well understood and they can pick and choose among traits to create a genome from scratch. The result may not be a dinosaur to purists, but if it walks like a T. Rex and eats the mad scientist like a T. Rex, it’s a T.Rex.

  13. G
    April 18, 2014 at 6:02 PM

    People used to call, and write physical letters, or just lose touch…

    …then we got email, and the ability to keep in touch a lot more instantaneously and en-masse (and pass along uncounted hoaxes instead of actually sending communications of any kind)…

    …and then as someone who resisted Facebook for years, I noticed that people are just not emailing. A couple of people I went to high school with, sometimes more important messages or longer messages, but mostly everyone I know is posting on Facebook instead. People older than me. People younger than me. People who hate it even more than I do. The everyday chatter that might have been a long phone call when I was a teen is now a bunch of short posts on Facebook.

    I kind of wonder if it’s email exhaustion; everyone who’s been emailing for –augh– a couple of decades and embraced it so eagerly at first, has been inundated with long emails, useless forwards that we’ve now seen more times than we can count, annoying hoaxes and political rants, spam. Maybe we’re all just tired of emailing specific recipient lists, and just want to spout out comments to the whole world and let whoever cares get back to us.

    I finally joined Facebook to keep in touch with family and friends, because they aren’t communicating in any other way. And I have to make sure I get a specific “notification,” about each of them, for each post they make. Otherwise Facebook’s bizarre algorithm might decide that I don’t really want to see the posts from the people I signed up to see posts from, and not show it to me.

    This is obnoxious.

    ….and under it is the awareness that if I’ve been emailing for [augh!] several decades, there are multiple younger generations who’ve been exposed to technology very differently from my generation. I suspect they think Facebook is clunky and old-fashioned, and I don’t have any idea what they may be doing instead.

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