AAAS Tries to Downplay Dinosaur Soft Tissue
The biggest bombshell of the century in paleontology threatens evolutionary time. It’s not surprising that the AAAS would want to put out the fire.
Dinosaur soft tissue pulls the rug out from millions of years. Most people get that. Tell them that blood vessels, blood cells and original proteins have been found in dinosaur fossils, and a light bulb will go off in their heads: ‘then they can’t be that old’ is the logical conclusion. With few exceptions, fossils are supposed to be remains of organisms that have turned to stone. But when Mary Schweitzer went on 60 Minutes in 2010 (see YouTube) showing stretchy material she found inside a T. rex bone, it elicited gasps from host Lesley Stahl. Nobody on that show could believe it. And her mentor, dinosaurologist Jack Horner, had no explanation. Schweitzer’s “unorthodox approach”, the narrator stated, “may be changing the whole dino ball game”.
In Science Magazine, Robert F. Service illustrated the AAAS tactical plan to defuse the findings: (a) Attribute it to Schweitzer’s religious faith; (b) Portray the findings as controversial and incapable of replication, (c) Suggest that there are other explanations than original soft tissue, and (d) Picture Schweitzer as an advocate on a personal quest with dubious motivations. Even the title of his article, “Keeping the Faith”, starts the discussion going on a religious meme. Service makes a big deal of the fact that Schweitzer was once a young-earth Biblical creationist. Maybe, his writing suggests, she never really got rid of her inner desire to prove evolution wrong, despite her claims otherwise.
To the degree Service’s narrative is accurate, Schweitzer’s change of heart is an all-too-common experience for Christian students, unable to deal with slick presentations of evolutionary ‘science’ and millions of years.
A THIRD-GENERATION MONTANAN, Schweitzer, 62, grew up outside of Helena as the youngest of three children in a conservative Catholic family. Her father, with whom she was very close, died of a heart attack when she was 16, and Schweitzer turned to fundamentalist Christianity for solace, embedding herself deeply in her new community. She also rejected evolution and adopted the belief that Earth is only 6000 years old.
After earning an undergraduate degree in audiology, Schweitzer married and had three children. She went back to school at Montana State University in Bozeman for an education degree, planning to become a high school science teacher. But then she sat in on a dinosaur lecture given by Jack Horner, now retired from the university, who was the model for the paleontologist in the original Jurassic Park movie. After the talk, Schweitzer went up to Horner to ask whether she could audit his class.
“Hi Jack, I’m Mary,” Schweitzer recalls telling him. “I’m a young Earth creationist. I’m going to show you that you are wrong about evolution.”
“Hi Mary, I’m Jack. I’m an atheist,” he told her. Then he agreed to let her sit in on the course.
Over the next 6 months, Horner opened Schweitzer’s eyes to the overwhelming evidence supporting evolution and Earth’s antiquity. “He didn’t try to convince me,” Schweitzer says. “He just laid out the evidence.”
She rejected many fundamentalist views, a painful conversion. “It cost me a lot: my friends, my church, my husband.” But it didn’t destroy her faith. She felt that she saw God’s handiwork in setting evolution in motion. “It made God bigger,” she says.
The message is clear: Schweitzer has “faith” but her critics have “evidence”. The AAAS article presents Horner sympathetically, failing to point out that last year the 70-year-old dinosaur hunter who inspired Jurassic Park‘s scientist character was removed last year as director of the Museum of the Rockies for an “inappropriate” relationship with a 19-year-old undergrad that he married and then divorced (Bozeman Daily Chronicle, 8/28/16). Service whitewashes the incident, stating that Horner is “now retired”. The article also fails to reveal that Horner refused a gift of $23,000 from Bob Enyart, pastor and host of Real Science Friday, to carbon date the T. rex soft tissue. Why not? That would seem a valuable piece of data for any organic remains. In his response, Horner hemmed and hawed, suggesting it would be a waste of time since there shouldn’t be any after millions of years. But according to the recorded phone conversation, the real reason was that Horner did not want to give creationists an opportunity to capitalize on the results if carbon-14 were found.
Service continues, describing Schweitzer’s original 1990 discovery of what looked like blood cells in dinosaur bone:
Schweitzer knew this amounted to paleontological heresy: According to the textbooks, when fossils form, all but the hardiest organic matter decays, leaving a mix of leftover minerals plus new ones that have leached in and taken the bone’s shape. Meanwhile, the fragile chains of amino acids in proteins quickly fall apart. Feeling “somewhat terrified,” Schweitzer didn’t want to tell anyone, least of all Horner, what she’d seen under the scope.
She confided in a fellow graduate student, who spread the news. Horner caught wind and called Schweitzer in. “They are in the right place to be red blood cells,” she recalls telling him. “But they can’t be red blood cells. We all know that.”
Horner stared at the slide himself for 5 to 10 minutes. “Prove to me they’re not,” he said.
Spurred by her mentor’s challenge, Schweitzer has continued to try to falsify her findings. “I’ve been trying ever since to disprove it,” she said. “I still haven’t.” Service lays out some of her most surprising findings in 1997, 2005 and 2007, but then employs the power of suggestion to resurrect refuted claims that the soft tissue comes from bacterial contamination. And he uses bandwagon language to present her as a lone maverick in a community of skeptics. He does point out, to his credit, that many of her most important papers were published in Science Magazine.
She needs more fossils to quiet a continuing drumbeat of criticism. In addition to raising the specter of contamination, Buckley and others have argued that antibodies often bind nonspecifically and yield false-positive results. Critics also noted that one of the six amino acid sequences reported in the 2007 paper was misassigned and is likely incorrect. Asara later agreed and retracted that particular sequence.
“That’s worrying,” says Maria McNamara, a paleontologist at University College Cork in Ireland. “If you are going to make claims for preservation, you really need to have tight arguments. At this point I don’t think we are quite there.”
Service points out that “Schweitzer and her team have detailed ripostes to all of these critiques.” He actually mentions some of them. And he quotes a supporter:
After the JPR paper, some say they are puzzled by the persistent skepticism. “I don’t get it,” says Johan Lindgren, a dinosaur paleontologist from Lund University in Sweden, who has recently begun collaborating with Schweitzer. “It seems like there is a double standard,” with some researchers ignoring Schweitzer’s multiple lines of evidence while making their own bold claims with less backing. “She’s extremely careful not to overstate what she’s doing.”
There might even be some sexism going on, Service hints. Nevertheless, the overall impression of his article is that Schweitzer is on a lonely quest, out of the mainstream, lacking enough evidence to make her case and failing to convince colleagues. “So Schweitzer pushes on, walking briskly across the badlands in search of fossils, bits of protein, and, perhaps one day, acceptance,” he ends, letting her self-identify as a stubborn person.
But Mary Schweitzer is not the only one finding soft tissue. Mark Armitage, a microscopist, found osteocytes, complete with delicate hairlike filipodia, in a Triceratops horn from the same Hell Creek formation where Schweitzer has worked. There are the seven museum specimens with “fibers and cellular structures” reported here at CEH on June 9, 2015 that were found by scientists from Imperial College London. They published their findings in Nature Communications. Bob Enyart has a long list of soft tissue scientific papers, as well as the conversation about the grant offer to Jack Horner. We have reported numerous cases of soft tissue in fossils, even from Cambrian arthropods over 500 million Darwin Years old (1/21/16). And creation researchers sent dinosaur bones to radiocarbon labs for testing, and detected measurable carbon-14 in numerous samples. Since all carbon-14 should disappear in 100,000 years, this one finding rules out millions of years.
So for Robert F. Service to portray Mary Schweitzer as a religious person “keeping the faith” on a lone quest among critics who cannot replicate her results amounts to serious misrepresentation and a distraction from the overarching question of millions of years. It’s a disservice to the readers of Science Magazine.
Evolutionists have to fight dinosaur soft tissue evidence. They have no choice. Their careers are over if dinosaurs lived far more recently. Nobody will trust them again. The castle that Charlie & Charlie built (Lyell, Darwin) crumbles to the ground like Jericho’s walls under Joshua’s trumpets if dinosaurs are not tens of millions of years old. So far, we have watched in disbelief at evolutionists responding with the angle, ‘Well, what do you know; dinosaur blood can last 68 million years.’ We have to keep the pressure on so that fake science does not succeed.