Mark Armitage is doing some of today’s most exciting research on fossils (see here, here, here, here, and here). He recently presented some of his research at the 2023 Microscopy and Microanalysis annual meeting, which published its proceedings.
To my mind, there are three important takeaways from the presentation. First, he finds blood clots in fossils that are much older that what has been commonly reported. Most of these reports are about fossils that are supposed to be 65-70 million years old. Some of the fossils he reports on here are supposed to be 270-300 million years old! That’s what the illustration at the top of this article shows. On the left is a standard microscope image of an early Permian amphibian fossil. The yellow material is bone, and the image is centered on a canal that runs through the bone. When the specimen was alive, the canal held blood vessels and nerves. The white area is empty, and the dark material between the empty space and the bone tissue is clotted blood. On the right, you see what happens when that same sample is hit with ultraviolet light. The dark splotches you see come from iron in the blood clot. When hit with ultraviolet light, iron emits light of a specific wavelength, and that’s the wavelength emitted here. Thus, we know this is iron, and since it is in the clot, it is iron from the animal’s blood. If you want to believe the old-earth timescale, then, you have to believe that a blood clot is able to exist for 270-300 million years without rotting away!
That brings me to the second important takeaway. In a desperate attempt to explain how soft tissue can be in fossils that are supposed to be millions of years old, Schweitzer and her colleagues published a paper suggesting that iron is the key to this remarkable preservation. In that paper, they show how iron from blood can reduce the degradation of blood vessels over a period of two years. However, the experiment required that the blood be treated with an anticoagulant. That way, iron could diffuse throughout the tissue that was being preserved. Armitage’s results show that’s not realistic. Instead, the blood clots trap the iron so that it is not available to the rest of the tissue. This adds to the other arguments which indicate that Schweitzer’s iron-preservation hypothesis is not valid.
The last very important takeaway is how these results affect research that has already been done. As Armitage’s paper says:
We also note that many histological dinosaur bone studies reveal unreported clots, thus we encourage workers to examine their sections for iron auto-fluorescence response under UVFL.
In other words, because of Armitage’s work, we can look at past images that have already been published and see that there are blood clots in previously-described fossils that were not recognized by the researchers who published the studies. Thus, paleontologists have the opportunity to learn more from the fossils that they have already examined. I truly hope that at least some of those scientists are curious enough to take Armitage’s suggestion!
Not long ago, I wrote about Answers in Genesis severely mischaracterizing Dr. Todd Wood because he refuses to agree with them on certain points related to evolution. One big problem they have is that Dr. Wood exercises faith. Dr. Wood claims that there are “gobs and gobs” of evidence for evolution (in the flagellate-to-philosopher sense), but he knows it’s not true because of his faith. Strangely enough, Answers in Genesis says that Dr. Wood’s faith is not enough. He must believe based on evidence.
In my previous post, I wrote about the misleading concept of Young-Earth Evolution (YEE) promoted by Answers in Genesis (AiG). In essence, AiG is worried about young-earth creationists who do not wholeheartedly conform to its positions on various issues related to creation and evolution. It says:
YEE ideas are needlessly and dangerously accommodating evolutionary assumptions, ideas, and language. The advocation of subtle ideas out of step with clear Scripture undermines biblical authority, sows confusion, and is a breeding ground for compromise.
What are these “subtle ideas out of step with clear Scripture”? It turns out that they are ideas about which Scripture says absolutely nothing! For example, AiG takes issue with Dr. Matthew McClain, a young-earth vertebrate paleontologist who says that birds are more similar to dinosaurs than they are to any other creatures. This is, of course, a true statement (birds and dinosaurs share an enormous number of similarities), and Scripture says absolutely nothing about that. In fact, while Scripture describes individual animals that were probably dinosaurs (see Job 40:15-24, for example), it doesn’t mention any group of creatures that can be collectively referred to as dinosaurs. Thus, the Bible makes no comparison between birds and dinosaurs.
Why, then, does AiG say that Dr. McClain’s idea is “out of step with clear Scripture”? Well, AiG says:
Dinosaurs are land-dwelling animals. That means they were made on day six of creation (Genesis 1:24–25). Almost all birds are flying creatures to some degree, and they all have wings. Therefore, they most likely were all made on day five (Genesis 1:20–22). By saying or agreeing with the evolutionary claim that birds are dinosaurs or are most similar to dinosaurs, Dr. McLain is mixing groups made on different days of creation.
There are two really big problems with this statement. First and foremost, it ignores Scripture. Leviticus 11:13-19 lists the types of birds that are not to be eaten. What does that list end with? It ends with a BAT! So what Scripture calls a bird is not what modern people call a bird. Any unbiased look at Scripture indicates that when the Old Testament mentions birds, it is referring to all animals that fly, which includes certain mammals. Well, most mammals were made on day six, so Scripture itself mixes groups made on different days. Even AiG has to agree that bats are mammals. In addition, it must agree that whales are mammals. They are swimming creatures, which were also made on day five. Thus, Scripture says that some animals we call mammals were made on day five, while others were made on day six. If some animals we call mammals were created on day five and some on day six, why couldn’t some animals we call dinosaurs have been made on day five and others on day six?
The second problem here is that AiG even admits that all birds were “most likely” made on day five. If AiG has to hedge on its own statement about when all birds were made, how in the world can Dr. McLain’s idea be “out of step with clear Scripture”? AiG is actually admitting that the Scripture isn’t clear on this point. I think what AiG means is that Dr. McClain’s view is out of step with AiG’s interpretation of Scripture. In other words, AiG seems to be conflating its interpretation of Scripture with what clearly comes from Scripture. That’s a very dangerous path to go down!
AiG also has a problem with Dr. McClain’s view that at least some dinosaurs had feathers. This is extremely odd, since AiG has stated previously:
Nothing in the Bible precludes the erstwhile existence of feathered dinosaurs.
So which is it? Is the idea that some dinosaurs might have had feathers “out of step with clear Scripture,” or is there nothing in the Bible that “precludes the erstwhile existence of feathered dinosaurs”? Clearly, AiG’s second statement is the correct one. Why, then, is AiG complaining about Dr. McClain’s view?
In my previous post, I encouraged you to watch a 12-minute video from Dr. Todd Wood that clearly demonstrated AiG is not treating him fairly. In this article, I suggest you watch a 13-minute video to show you that AiG is not treating Dr. McClain fairly either.
Once again, I really appreciate Dr. McClain’s view on this. I have always been skeptical of the idea of feathered dinosaurs (see here, here, here, and here). However, as a young-earth creationist, I want to listen to those who have different viewpoints, especially those who are as well-versed in this issue as Dr. McClain. Based on my reading, Dr. McClain is the most qualified creation scientist to speak on the fossil record of dinosaurs. Whether or not I agree with him, I need to learn as much as I can from him. If AiG really wants to learn the truth about the details of how God created, it should try to learn from him as well!
I have been exposed to a lot of odd ideas over the years: the flat earth, the idea that we never landed on the moon, chemtrails, etc. etc. Well, I can now add another to the list. This one comes from Answers in Genesis (AiG), which is warning Christians about the dangers posed by Young Earth Evolutionists. If you looked at those three words and said “What?”, I don’t blame you. Obviously, there is no such thing as a young-earth evolutionist. Evolution (at least in the sense most people use the term) requires billions of years, so if you are an evolutionist, you cannot believe in a young earth.
What does AiG mean by “young-earth evolutionist”? Apparently, it’s a young-earth creationist who is unwilling to pledge fealty to AiG’s tests of orthodoxy. Consider, for example, Dr. Todd Wood, who has a Ph.D. in biochemistry and was once the director of bioinformatics at Clemson University’s Genomics Institute. He is a committed Christian, a knowledgeable creationist who has done original research in the field, and an expert in baraminology, the scientific study of what kinds of living organisms were originally created by God. He believes (and teaches) that the days listed in Genesis 1 were roughly 24 hours long, that there was a worldwide Flood that is responsible for most of the fossil-bearing rocks we see today, and that the land animals we see today (with the possible exception of many kinds of insects) are descended from the animals that walked off the Ark after the Floodwaters receded. In short, he is a young-earth creationist.
Why does AiG call him a young-earth evolutionist? Because he is being honest about the data related to origins. For example, AiG takes issue with his famous statement that there are “gobs and gobs” of evidence for evolution. AiG doesn’t like this, because it claims that all this supposed evidence has already been “dealt with,” so none of it qualifies as actual evidence. While the first part of this statement is true, the second part is clearly not, and that goes to the core of the difference between AiG and many serious creation scientists. Yes, creationists have “dealt with” data that seem to support evolution. However, as any serious scientist understands (and AiG gives lip service to), scientific data require interpretation. Yes, creationists can interpret data in a way that is consistent with their ideas, but evolutionists can interpret that same data in a way that is consistent with their ideas. AiG seems to think that once creationists have figured out a way to interpret the data in a manner consistent with their ideas, the data no longer qualify as evidence for evolution. That is simply not true!
Anyone who has spent any significant amount of time seriously studying science understands that there is often no way to decide which interpretation of the data is correct. Often, one side’s interpretation of the data seems desperate, but that doesn’t mean it is wrong. Let me give you two examples. First, consider the GULO pseudogene. Evolutionists think that it is a broken version of a gene that was originally functional in early mammals, but mutations rendered it nonfunctional during the course of evolution. Well, the same mutations that are thought to have rendered it nonfunctional in apes are also found in humans. This is thought to be excellent evidence that humans and apes have a common ancestor whose gene had already been rendered nonfunctional, and that nonfunctional gene was passed on to both apes and humans. It’s true that the most straightforward way to interpret the GULO pseudogene is through the lens of common ancestry. Now, of course, there are ways to interpret it in the context of young-earth creation, and I give one of them in the link above. However, if you read it, you can see that it is not the most straightforward interpretation of the data.
Next, consider the phenomenon of homology. Many very different organisms share very similar features. All vertebrates (animals with backbones), for example, have the same basic plan for their forelimbs. Evolutionists assure us that this is because all vertebrates evolved from a common ancestor that passed on its forelimb plan to each of its descendants. In other words, homology is the result of common ancestry. However, there are many, many examples of similar structures that cannot be the result of common ancestry, because evolutionists have decided that those organisms don’t share a common ancestor that could give them that structure. As a result, they say that in such cases, homology is not a result of common ancestry. In other words, sometimes homology is a result of common ancestry, and sometimes it is not. That’s not a very straightforward interpretation of the data. A better interpretation of the data is that organisms were originally made by the same Designer, who simply used the same basic design over and over again when it was appropriate.
So….is the GULO pseudogene evidence for a common ancestor between apes and humans? Absolutely yes! Can creationists accommodate the GULO pseudogene in their view? Yes, but it seems a bit desperate. Is homology evidence for a common Designer? Absolutely yes! Can evolutionists accommodate it in their view? Yes, but it seems a little desperate. To any serious scientist out there, this shouldn’t seem strange. In every field where there are competing theories, those who support one theory have a set of evidence that is very strong, and those who support a competing theory have another set of evidence that is very strong. Typically, both sides can accommodate the other side’s evidence in their theory, but often, that accommodation seems desperate. Indeed, we often make decisions between scientific theories by deciding which one seems the least desperate when dealing with all the data!
Not only does AiG hate admitting that there is evidence for any view that disagrees with its own, it really hates the way Dr. Wood explains how he personally deals with the “gobs and gobs” of evidence for evolution. He says that he has faith. It’s rather odd for a creationist organization to argue against faith, but that seems to be what AiG is doing! It claims that in emphasizing his faith, Dr. Wood comes very close to fideism, which says that faith is opposed to reason. Of course, this is a gross mischaracterization of Dr. Wood’s views, and anyone who has honestly read Dr. Wood’s work understands that.
In fact, you don’t even have to honestly evaluate his work to see that AiG is mischaracterizing Dr. Wood’s views. You just have to go to YouTube and see his 12-minute video about why he is a creationist:
I really encourage you to watch the entire video, because it shows how a serious creationist honestly deals with evidence that seems to contradict his view (he specifically mentions one piece of data and vaguely refers to another). In case you do not, however, let me summarize what he says. Like any real scientist, he says that he is comfortable not having an answer to every question related to origins. As a result, his faith can remain strong despite challenges to it, which allows him to work towards finding answers to those challenges.
Now please note that I do not agree with everything Dr. Wood says. In fact, I disagree with his idea that there are “gobs and gobs” of evidence for evolution. Based on my interpretation of the data, I find that there is some evidence for evolution (which is why serious scientists can believe in it), but the “gobs and gobs” of evidence support the creationist view. However, I am also humble enough (despite what my students might say) to admit that I could be wrong. Thus, I value Dr. Wood and his contributions to creation science. In fact, I thank God for what he is doing!
Please note that AiG calls other very serious creation scientists “young-earth evolutionists.” I plan to address that in at least one more article.
Those who understand the formation of our universe using the Big Bang model are forced to believe that the vast majority of the universe is made up of material about which scientists know absolutely nothing. As shown in the picture, to believe in the Big Bang model today, you must believe that all the matter involved in all the experiments done by all the scientists in history makes up only about 5% of the universe. 72% of the universe is composed of dark energy, a form of energy that was completely unknown until the 1990s and is so far undetectable and not understood at all. The other 23% is made of dark matter, which is matter that we cannot see because of the limitations of our experimental capabilities. Scientists have been trying to detect dark matter for decades, but so far, nothing has been found.
Why must those who are guided by the Big Bang believe that the vast majority of the universe has gone undetected? The Big Bang model predicted that over time, the expansion of the universe should be slowing down, since all matter is gravitationally attracting all other matter. However, data that started being collected in the 1990s indicate that in the past, the expansion of the universe was slower, which implies that the universe’s expansion is actually speeding up. The current amount of dark energy that is supposed to exist is what’s necessary to retrofit the Big Bang model to allow for this increase in expansion rate.
Belief in dark matter, on the other hand, is used to explain around certain observations that are surprising based on currently-accepted physics. For example, the way most galaxies rotate is not what is expected based on Newton’s Universal theory of Gravitation, but assuming a specific distribution of unseen matter, we can “fix” the galaxies so they rotate as expected. In addition, there are ways to indirectly determine the mass of galaxies, and those indirectly-determined masses usually don’t agree with the masses indicated by the matter that we can see in them. Thus, there must be unseen matter there.
On a personal level, I think dark energy exists only in the minds of those who are committed to the Big Bang Model. I see no serious evidence for its existence. Dark matter, on the other hand, has at least some serious evidence behind it. After all, either the physics we currently say we “know” is wrong, dark matter really exists, or something else that hasn’t been theorized exists to explain the discrepancies. Of course, as anyone who has read this blog for a while knows, I am just as likely to believe that the physics we currently “know” is wrong. As a result, I have always been intrigued by an alternate model of gravity called Modified Newtonian Dynamics (MOND). Its proponents claim that it can not only account for all the effects currently attributed to dark matter, but it has also made predictions which have later been confirmed by new data.
Well, one of its proponents recently wrote an article for The Institute for Art and Ideas. The title is simple and says it all: “Dark Matter Doesn’t Exist.” He goes through experimental evidences that support MOND, and he notes the failures of multiple searches for dark matter. While I am inclined to think that MOND is more likely to be true than dark matter, I am not convinced that it is the way to go. However, I did find this statement in his article very interesting:
We need to scientifically understand why the dark-matter based model, being the most falsified physical theory in the history of humankind, continues to be religiously believed to be true by the vast majority of the modern, highly-educated scientists. This is a problem for the sociological and philosophical sciences and suggests a breakdown of the scientific method.
While I am not sure that the dark matter hypothesis is “the most falsified physical theory in the history of humankind,” I wholeheartedly agree with him on the rest of his point. However, I would broaden his statement to include many other scientific theories, like evolution as a creation myth, the dogmatic belief that the earth is billions of years old, and the Big Bang model. One of the problems that exists in science today is that too many scientists believe these theories with a religious fervor. As a result, they tend to reject all the evidence that questions them. This, of course, holds back science.
While I don’t know if MOND is the correct answer to the question of why certain astrophysical observations are not consistent with currently-accepted physics, I can say that this particular MOND proponent has hit the nail on the head when it comes to a very big problem in today’s scientific enterprise!
Because of difficulties surrounding supply chains, employment, etc., it took a lot longer than expected, but Discovering Design with Earth Science is finally here! I have to take a moment to praise my publisher, who truly went above and beyond what most publishers would do in this situation. The facility that usually does the printing told my publisher that they couldn’t get the books done in time to get them out to those who are starting school in August. As a result, my publisher ended up contacting several printers and found one that would do a “short run” (printing a smaller number of books) to meet the needs of those who were counting on the book being available in August. Short runs cost more money per book, so my publisher is sacrificing income in order to make the books available to those who need them. Not many publishers would do that, and I want to commend Berean Builders for its commitment to customer service!
The course covers earth science at the late junior high/early high school level. In practical terms, it could be used for either 8th or 9th grade, depending on the student. It covers the basic structure of the earth, geology, fossils, physical oceanography, weather, and space. Like all my courses, it has laboratory exercises built right into the book. Some of the exercises use household items, but there are several that require a kit which has a digital mass scale, some chemistry supplies, and specific samples of sediments, rocks, minerals, and fossils.
As I have tried to do in the past, I strive to present both sides when it comes to the age of the earth. Throughout the first nine chapters of the book, students will learn the data that lead many scientists to conclude that the earth is billions of years old, but they will also learn the data that lead some scientists to believe the earth is thousands of years old. I do not tell the students what I believe, but they can probably figure it out if they want to. Nevertheless, here is how I end the ninth chapter:
“Before I end this chapter, however, I need to make you aware of one very important fact. As a knowledgeable scientist, I could have focused on just the evidence favoring uniformitarianism and against the YEC (young-earth creationist) view. As a result, I could have easily convinced you that science clearly demonstrates that the earth is billions of years old and the uniformitarian view of the geosphere is correct. I could also have focused on the evidence for catastrophism and against uniformitarianism, and I could have easily convinced you that science clearly demonstrates the earth is only thousands of years old, and the YEC view of the geosphere is correct.
Unfortunately, this is something every student experiences. Because your teachers and the authors of your textbooks know a lot more than you do, they can easily convince you of pretty much anything they want. Being a good scientist requires that you respectfully read and listen, but also investigate the issue for yourself. This is probably the most important thing to learn from this chapter. In fact, it is probably the most important thing to learn from all your education:
Regardless of how convincing teachers or textbooks are, do not form an opinion until you have looked at all sides of an issue. Otherwise, you might end up being fooled.”
Early on, he makes a statement that indicates he has not studied carbon-14 dating very seriously:
…bone mineral is usually useless for radiocarbon dating, even though the carbonate that bone mineral incorporates during life contains 14C. The uselessness of bone mineral for radiocarbon dating is due to the fact that bone mineral accumulates new 14C after death, yielding a falsely young radiocarbon “age.”
This statement is utterly false, and anyone who knows carbon-14 dating would know that. Hundreds of radiocarbon dates have been published in the scientific literature using bioapatite, a bone mineral. This study examined using bioapatite in carbon-14 dating extensively, comparing it to two other commonly-used substances in carbon-14 dating. It concluded:
Most Holocene samples exhibit reliable 14C ages on the bioapatite fraction. Late Pleistocene samples have shown reliable results even for extremely poorly preserved bone in the case of samples derived from a non-carbonate environment.
The Holocene supposedly dates back to about 11,700 years, while the Pleistocene supposedly goes back to 2.6 million years. “Late Pleistocene” samples, then, would be samples that go back to the limits of carbon-14 dating (about 50,000 years old). Indeed, in that study, one of the samples had a carbon-14 date of 37,000 years old, which is older than most of the dinosaur bones that have been dated with carbon-14. So the idea that minerals from bone are “useless” for carbon-14 dating is demonstrably false.
Dr. Senter tries to back up his statement with a reference, but the reference doesn’t invalidate the use of bioapatite in carbon-14 dating at all. It does indicate that when you compare the date derived from collagen (a non-mineral that is often used in carbon-14 dating) to the date derived from bioapatite, the bioapatite date is often younger. However, the results depend heavily on where the fossil was found. More importantly, we know this has nothing to do with the carbon-14 dates of dinosaur bones, since many dinosaur fossils have been dated using both mineral and non-mineral samples (including collagen), and the ages are similar. In a hadrosaur fossil, for example, bioapatite dated as 25,670 years old, while the collagen dated as 23,170 years old. Note that contrary to the study Senter cites, in this case, the bioapatite age is older than the collagen age.
Senter then tries to explain why dinosaur bones read so young with carbon-14 dating. Most of his argument boil down to the idea that modern carbon has gotten into the fossils, and since the modern carbon is very young, it makes the fossil read young. The problem with that, of course, is that if modern carbon is getting into the fossil from the environment, there must be more contamination near the surface of the fossil and less near the center of the fossil. Thus, the carbon-14 age of the bone should vary depending on where in the bone the sample was taken. However, that’s not what is seen. In this study, Figure 7 has circles around the dates for samples taken from different parts of the same bone. They show very good agreement, indicating that what is being detected is not from contamination.
There is one argument Dr. Senter makes which isn’t about contamination. He says that radioactive materials can be absorbed by a bone, and those radioactive materials can cause nuclear reactions which will add carbon-14 to the bone, making it look young. Once again, he cites studies to support his claim, such as this one, but once again, the studies don’t support his claim. For example, the study I just linked shows how uranium decay can lead to the production of carbon-14, but as anyone who understands nuclear reactions would tell you, the effect is ridiculously small. Indeed, the study shows that nuclear reactions can account for no more than one hundreth (1/100) of the lowest amount of carbon-14 detected in dinosaur bones! Thus, there is no way that nuclear reactions are a viable means of explaining around the carbon-14 found in dinosaur bones.
In the end, then, we see that Dr. Senter must use false information to assure his readers that carbon-14 in dinosaur bones doesn’t invalidate the dogma that they are millions of years old. Unfortunately, since many teachers read the magazine in which his article was published, I am sure that this false information will be spread around, fooling unsuspecting students. Nevertheless, the more this is investigated, the more we will see that it poses a huge problem for those who are committed to believing that dinosaurs lived millions of years ago.
In several previous articles (here, here, here, here, and here), I have been highlighting the groundbreaking work of Mark Armitage at the Dinosaur Soft Tissue Research Institute (DSTRI). If you haven’t heard about the amazing work he has been doing, you should read every link given above. If you have been following Armitage’s cutting-edge original research, then you will be pleased to learn that he has published yet another article with yet another first in the field of paleontology.
The article is entitled, “First Report of Peripheral Nerves in Bone from Triceratops horridus Occipital Condyle,” and even if you get lost in the terminology, the pictures are well worth perusing. Essentially, Armitage does a microscopic analysis of nerves from a chicken (like the one pictured on the left above) and compares them to nerves that were isolated from the condyle (the rounded end of a horn) of a Triceratops fossil (like the one pictured in the right above). He shows that the structures from the fossil have all the physical characteristics of the chicken nerves, which indicates that they really are nerves from a vertebrate animal. That means they are not contaminants. They came from the dinosaur.
Look, for example, at the pictures above. The white bars tell you the scale in micrometers (millionths of a meter). Notice the pattern of dark lines wrapping around the chicken nerve on the left. That is characteristic of a sheath that wraps around the bundle of fibers which makes up the nerve. As you can see, the same pattern appears in the structure that was isolated from the Triceratops fossil, which is shown on the right. Two even more stunning photographs appear on page 5 of the article. In Figures 12 and 13, you can actually see deatils of the sheaths themselves. They are extremely thin and delicate, and yet they were found in a bone that is supposed to be 65 million years old!
It is important to note that these aren’t stiff, petrified structures. Armitage removed the minerals that had preserved the bone (he “decalcified” it), leaving soft tissues behind. As he says in the article:
The flexibility of individual decalcified nerves was astonishing. Nerves held at each end with fine needle forceps only broke into two pieces after repeated tugging. An example of the flexibility of these nerves is seen in Figure 15 where the fascicle rotates through a gentle, unbroken loop and descends into other curvatures before terminating to a point.
Those who are forced to believe in an ancient earth will, no doubt, come up with more special pleading to try to explain how soft tissue can avoid decomposition for millions of years. But for those who are willing to actually follow the data, it is clear that the most reasonable explanation is that the bones are not millions of years old.
I have written a lot about soft tissue found in dinosaur fossils and other fossils that are supposed to be millions of years old (see here, here, here, here, here, and here, for example). Right now, the best work being done on this issue comes from the Dinosaur Soft Tissue Research Institute, which is run by microscopist and young-earth creationist Mark Armitage. Without the help of government grants, he and his colleagues have produced some truly incredible work. Their latest contribution was published in Microscopy Today, and it strengthens the case that these fossils cannot be millions of years old. As always, I encourage you to read the article in its entirety, but here is my “color commentary.”
First, the article shows more incredible, delicate structures that would not be expected to survive any preservation process that would protect them for millions of years. For the first time in the scientific literature, there are two excellent pictures of dinosaur vein valves (Figures 2 and 3), features that are so delicate they are hard to extract from animals that have just recently died. In another first, he shows a nerve from the same fossil (Figure 6). In that nerve, you can see the delicate Bands of Fontana, structures that are unique to nerves.
He also shows a bone cell from the same fossil (Figure 7). While bone cells from dinosaur fossils have been published in the scientific literature, this particular one is very important. Bone cells have characteristic structures called filipodial extensions that are remarkably thin (widths of less than 200 billionths of a meter). The bone cell shown in their study has a filipodial extension that is 24 millionths of a meter long. That doesn’t sound like much, but it is about 30% longer than any other dinosaur filipodial extension found in the literature. This is important, because its length is more than 100 times its width. Think about a structure with those dimensions made out of soft tissue. It would be ridiculously fragile, yet there it is in a dinosaur fossil!
Second, and more importantly, he shows that the current explanation evolutionists have for the preservation of soft tissue in dinosaur fossils doesn’t work. Dr. Mary Schweitzer was the first to give strong evidence for the existence of soft tissue in dinosaur fossils, but she is committed to an evolutionary view. As a result, she needs to find an explanation for how such tissue could survive for millions of years. Seven years ago, she published a study in which she hoped to show that iron from the blood of a dinosaur could produce certain reactions that would preserve the tissues. I wrote about her explanation at the time and how it didn’t seem to make sense based on what we knew. Later on, better chemists than I wrote a detailed analysis about how her explanation is inconsistent with the data.
This new paper demonstrates rather conclusively that Schweitzer’s explanation doesn’t work for the fossil being discussed. Armitage and his colleague (Jim Solliday) search the filipodial extensions of bone cells that are found right outside a canal that held a blood vessel. Since the cells are so close to what was a blood vessel, and since the filipodial extensions are so delicate, those iron-induced reactions should produce noticeable effects on the filipodial extensions. He shows that those effects are not present. Thus, it is unlikely that such reactions happened at all in the fossil.
Also, in her study, Schweitzer took great pains to prevent blood clotting so that iron from the blood could be distributed throughout the soft tissue she was trying to preserve. However, Armitage and Solliday present strong evidence for massive blood clotting in their fossil. This would prevent iron from being able to promote any tissue-preserving reactions. While their evidence is strong, however, it is not conclusive. Thus, as they suggest, more research needs to be done.
The Dinosaur Soft Tissue Research Institute is on the forefront of this issue in science, and they are doing it without the massive government grants available to organizations who are desperately trying to fit the data into an evolutionary framework. If you have the means, I suggest that you make a donation to keep science progressing in this area.
Over the past few days, several people have sent me articles like this one, which makes a rather fantastic claim:
The Aldabra white-throated rail bird was declared extinct, a victim of rising sea levels almost 100,000 years ago.
However, the flightless brown bird has recently been spotted – leaving scientists scratching their heads as to how – and why – the species has come back to life.
What do you conclude from reading that? The article seems to be saying that no one had ever seen this bird before; it was only known from the fossil record. Now, however, living versions of it have been seen, and how they came back from extinction is a mystery. Unfortunately, like many “science news” stories, this one distorts the science to the point that it is deceptive and misleading.
Let’s start with the bird that is being discussed. It’s the Aldabra white-throated rail, whose scientific name is Dryolimnas [cuvieri] aldabranus. It lives on the Aldabra atoll in the Indian Ocean and is nearly identical to white-throated rails (Dryolimnas cuvieri) found in other parts of the world, like Madagascar. However, the ones on the Aldabra atoll cannot fly, while the others can. As a result, the flightless birds on the atoll are considered a subspecies of the version that can fly.
While we cannot say for sure, the generally-accepted origin story for the Aldabra white-throated rail is that normal white-throated rails landed on the atoll, and since there were no predators there, they stayed. Since they didn’t need to fly anymore, they evolved into flightless birds over several generations. This makes sense, because when a population of organisms doesn’t need a particular biological trait, mutations can degrade those traits without affecting survivability. In addition, DNA is so incredibly well-designed that over the course of generations, it can “turn off” genes that are no longer used in order to save energy. As a result, it makes sense that these flightless birds are descendants from birds that could originally fly.
Why do these articles discuss the birds being extinct at one point? Because the authors of the scientific study looked at the fossil record of the atoll. Using scientifically-irresponisble dating methods, they came to the conclusion that the atoll was completely underwater about 140,000 years ago. When they looked at fossils they interpreted to be older than 140,000 years, they found two bones that seem identical to the corresponding bones in the Aldabra white-throated rails that currently live on the atoll. Thus, they conclude that these flightless birds lived on the atoll before it went completely underwater.
Well, since the birds couldn’t fly, the authors assume that they all died when the atoll was underwater. However, in fossils that they interpret as being deposited after ocean levels decreased and the atoll was no longer underwater, they found another bone that looks similar to the corresponding bones in white-throated rails that can fly. However, it is heavier and more robust than what is found in those birds, but still lighter than what is found in the flightless Aldabra white-throated rails. In other words, it seems to be “in between” the bone of a normal white-throated rail and a flightless white-throated rail. To them, that gives “irrefutable evidence” (their words) that the Aldabra white-throated rails evolved twice: once before the atoll went underwater, and once after.
While their interpretation of the evidence makes sense and is consistent with all the known data, their case is certainly not “irrefutable.” First, you have to assume that they are interpreting the fossil record correctly. There is a lot of evidence to indicate the earth isn’t anywhere close to 140,000 years old, and if that evidence is correct, then their entire explanation is wrong. Also, even if the earth is as old as these scientists want to believe, the authors’ explanation is not the only one consistent with the data. We know that flightless animals can move from place to place on floating mats of vegetation. This is called “rafting,” and it is used by both evolutionists and creationists to explain the worldwide distribution of certain animals. If the atoll flooded like the authors think, the flightless birds could have survived by rafting. What about that one bone that is “in between” the two subspecies? There are natural variations in all bones. A “more robust” bone from a normal white-throated rail can be explained by natural variation within a population of normal white-throated rails.
The main reason I am writing about this is not to argue with the authors. It’s to point out the deceptiveness of articles like the one I quoted at the beginning of the post. As I have said many times before, do not believe the things you read in the popular press when it comes to science. Most “science journalists” are profoundly ill-equipped to understand science, and usually quite poor journalists as well.