Dinosaur Soft Tissue

Soft Tissue in Dinosaur Fossils: Evidence for a Young Earth?

In an earlier article, “Evidences for a Young Earth”,  I discussed a number of proposed physical evidences that the earth is only a few thousand years old, rather than billions of years old. Holding to a literal interpretation of Genesis, young earth creationists circulate about a hundred of these arguments for a young earth. Most of these claims have been around for several decades, and have long since been addressed by mainstream scientists.

A relatively new area of controversy is the discovery of soft tissues in dinosaur fossils. The state of these discoveries changes every few years, so some of the standard science web sites have not kept up. This is a somewhat dramatic topic, which the young earth proponents have appropriated enthusiastically. It is #3 on a list of “10 Best Evidences From Science That Confirm a Young Earth”, according to Answers in Genesis.

A 2009 Institute for Creation Research article by B. Thomas [1] leads off:

In recent decades, soft, squishy tissues have been discovered inside fossilized dinosaur bones. They seem so fresh that it appears as though the bodies were buried only a few thousand years ago.

Since many think of a fossil as having had the original bone material replaced by minerals, the presence of actual bone–let alone pliable blood vessels, red blood cells, and proteins inside the bone–is quite extraordinary. These finds also present a dilemma. Given the fact that organic materials like blood vessels and blood cells rot, and the rates at which certain proteins decay, how could these soft tissues have been preserved for ten thousand, let alone 65 million or more, years?

This sounds amazing – – “fresh”, “soft, squishy tissues” and “pliable blood vessels, red blood cells, and proteins”. This verbiage makes the reader think that someone cracked open these dinosaur bones and found raw tissue flopping around inside, dripping with red blood cells. Is that really the case?  Let’s turn to the facts. Here are the topics treated below:

1992: Mary Schweitzer Sees What Looks Like Red Blood Cells

2004: Schweitzer Finds Bits of Soft Tissue in T. Rex Bones

2006 Onward: Sequencing Proteins from Dinosaur Bones

Mechanisms for Ancient Protein Preservation

Osteocyte Cells, Traces of DNA, and Iron as a Preservative

Assessment of Evidence That Soft Tissue Can Persist for 70 Million Years

Invariance of Radioactive Decay Rates

The Dinosaur-Bird Connection

Mary Schweitzer on Creation



1992: Mary Schweitzer Sees What Looks Like Red Blood Cells

Mary Schweitzer at the ‘scope. Source: God and Nature, Summer 2014. http://godandnature.asa3.org/interview-not-so-dry-bones-with-mary-schweitzer.html

Mary Schweitzer at the ‘scope. Source: God and Nature, Summer 2014. http://godandnature.asa3.org/interview-not-so-dry-bones-with-mary-schweitzer.html

Key discoveries in this area over the past twenty years have been made by Mary Schweitzer, now a professor of paleontology at North Carolina State University.  In 2010, she wrote an article, “Blood From Stone”, in Scientific American which summarized her work to that point [2]. She starts off describing an afternoon in 1992, when she was a graduate student looking in a microscope at a thin bone slice from a newly excavated Tyrannosaurus rex fossil skeleton. She saw what looked like red blood cells – they were “the right size, shape and color to be blood cells, and they were in the right place, too.” This was a surprise, since “The conventional wisdom holds that when an animal dies under conditions suitable for fossilization, inert minerals from the surrounding environment eventually replace all of the organic molecules—such as those that make up cells, tissues, pigments and proteins—leaving behind bones composed entirely of mineral.”

Were these actually red blood cells, or the chemically transformed remains of red blood cells, or merely artifacts of some unknown geological process that produced rounded blobs of material? If these objects were red blood cells, how could organic matter be preserved for more than 65 million years, when the last of the dinosaurs died out? Schweitzer has spent the last two decades trying to answer these questions.

In the mid-1990’s she did a couple of chemical tests with the dinosaur bones.  Spectroscopic tests of light wavelengths emitted or absorbed indicated that somewhere in the fossil bones were compounds that were consistent with heme.  Heme is a small, relatively stable iron-containing molecule which gives blood its red color and is the key oxygen-carrying component of the hemoglobin protein. Heme has been identified by Greenwalt, et al.  in the abdomen of a 46-million-year-old mosquito fossil.  Schweitzer noted in a 1997 article [3]:

We also thought hemoglobin could be in the tissue because at its core are structures that have a reputation for durability. Called heme units, these chemically stable structures consist of a ringlike organic compound called porphyrin bound to an iron atom. Porphyrins are an important part of many biological molecules, including chlorophyll, which plants need for photosynthesis. Porphyrins derived from chlorophyll have been found in sediments dating back to the Carboniferous, when vast forests blanketed the planet many millions of years before the dinosaurs existed. So we did not think it too far-fetched that heme units from hemoglobin might still exist in our T. rex.

Also, the responses of immune systems of laboratory mice to injections of powdered dinosaur bones suggested that the bones “contained something similar to the hemoglobin in living animals”[2]. The observed immune response did not require that a full hemoglobin protein was present in the fossil bones, but only a tiny fragment of the protein, “possibly 3-4 amino acids”.

At that point, Schweitzer recounts [2], “We could not show that the hemoglobinlike substance was specific to the red structures—the available techniques were not sufficiently sensitive to permit such differentiation. Thus, we could not claim definitively that they were blood cells. When we published our findings in 1997, we drew our conclusions conservatively, stating that hemoglobin proteins might be preserved and that the most likely source of such proteins was the cells of the dinosaur. The paper got very little notice.”

Just to be clear, her assessment of these objects was that they were not actual red blood cells (e.g. with cell walls or other cellular structures), but rather some chemically transformed remnants of the dinosaur blood [4]:

Clearly these structures are not functional cells. However, one possibility is that they represent diagenetic alteration of original blood remnants, such as complexes of hemoglobin breakdown products, a possibility supported by other data that demonstrate that organic components remain in these dinosaur tissues.

In the next few years, she analyzed some other fossils from the age of dinosaurs, finding evidence for preservation of some keratin proteins from fossil claws and from feather-like fibers. She noted [2] that keratin proteins “are good candidates for preservation because they are abundant in vertebrates, and the composition of this protein family makes them very resistant to degradation.” This work was published in 1999. Again, it was largely ignored, since her findings “challenged everything scientists thought they knew about the breakdown of cells and molecules. Test-tube studies of organic molecules indicated that proteins should not persist more than a million years or so.”

Fuelling the skepticism of her colleagues at that time was the recent debunking of some 1990’s claims of the finding of DNA in dinosaur fossils. In one case, the DNA was found to have resulted from human contamination, and in the other case the DNA came from living fungi and plants, not a reptile [5].

2004: Schweitzer Finds Bits of Soft Tissue in T. Rex Bones

In 2003, Schweitzer received some chunks of T. rex thigh bone (femur), from a recently-excavated fossil skeleton from base of the Hell Creek formation in Montana. This formation has been dated by various radiometric means to about 65-68 million years ago.

In today’s birds, when a female bird is about to lay eggs, it produces distinctive “medullary” bone which serves as a reservoir of calcium for the egg-shells. Schweitzer noticed that the dinosaur thigh bone specimen seemed to include some of this type of bone. For bird bones, one can dissolve the hard mineral part of the bone away in weak acid over a period of weeks, leaving the soft tissue available for examination. In early 2004, Schweitzer asked her technician to treat the T. rex bones in this manner. For the medullary bone they found that this treatment yielded the stretchy, fibrous tissue shown below:

Tissue from medullary bone from T.rex. Source: Schweitzer, et al., “Soft-Tissue Vessels and Cellular Preservation in Tyrannosaurus rex”, Science, 307 (2005) 1952 [6]

Tissue from medullary bone from T.rex. Source: Schweitzer, et al., “Soft-Tissue Vessels and Cellular Preservation in Tyrannosaurus rex”, Science, 307 (2005) 1952 [6]

When the regular cortical bone was likewise dissolved away with weak acid, a network of what looked like normal, flexible blood vessels was revealed:

Hollow, branching vessels from demineralized T. rex femur. Source: M. H. Schweitzer, Scientific American, December, 2010, pg. 62. [2]

Hollow, branching vessels from demineralized T. rex femur. Source: M. H. Schweitzer, Scientific American, December, 2010, pg. 62. [2]

Inside the vessels were suspended what looked like red blood cells:

Higher magnification of dinosaur vessels shows branching pattern (arrows) and round, red microstructures in the vessels. Source: Schweitzer, et al., “Soft-Tissue Vessels and Cellular Preservation in Tyrannosaurus rex”, Science, 307 (2005) 1952 [6].

Higher magnification of dinosaur vessels shows branching pattern (arrows) and round, red microstructures in the vessels. Source: Schweitzer, et al., “Soft-Tissue Vessels and Cellular Preservation in Tyrannosaurus rex”, Science, 307 (2005) 1952 [6].

2006 Onward: Sequencing Proteins from Dinosaur Bones

Schweitzer and her colleagues published these photos in the prestigious journal Science in 2005 [6].  She recounts [2]:

The paper garnered a lot of attention, but the scientific community adopted a wait-and-see attitude. We claimed only that the material we found resembled these modern components— not that they were one and the same. After millions of years, buried in sediments and exposed to geochemical conditions that varied over time, what was preserved in these bones might bear little chemical resemblance to what was there when the dinosaur was alive. The real value of these materials could be determined only if their composition could be discerned. Our work had just begun.

Using all the techniques honed while studying [other fossils], I began an in-depth analysis of this T. rex’s bone in collaboration with Asara, who had refined the purification and sequencing methods we used in the mammoth study and was ready to try sequencing the dinosaur’s much older proteins. This was a much harder exercise, because the concentration of organics in the dinosaur was orders of magnitude less than in the much younger mammoth and because the proteins were very degraded. Nevertheless, we were eventually able to sequence them. And, gratifyingly, when our colleague Chris Organ of Harvard compared the T. rex sequences with those of a multitude of other organisms, he found that they grouped most closely with birds, followed by crocodiles— the two groups that are the closest living relatives of dinosaurs.

When the papers detailing this protein sequencing work were published in 2007 [7, 8] and 2008, they generated “a firestorm of controversy”.  Because proteins in laboratory experiments degrade relatively quickly, it was believed in the scientific community that original proteins simply could not persist for so many millions of years. Some scientists viciously attacked the protein sequencing techniques of Schweitzer’s collaborator, John Asara of Harvard Medical School [28].

Also, Thomas Kaye, et al. published a paper in 2008 [9] which made a strong case that the flexible stuff found in dinosaur bones was merely a “biofilm” produced by modern bacteria which had invaded the bone pores. Kaye’s team used electron microscopy to examine material from a range of fossils, including some from the same Hell Creek formation which had produced Schweitzer’s T. rex. Doing the same sort of demineralization as Schweitzer, Kaye found similar structures, but interpreted them differently. The photo below shows branching vessels, containing small round red objects, which are about the same size as red blood cells. These objects were identified as “framboids”, which are a small, round deposits of inorganic iron mineral. Framboids are common in various sediments, and typically have nothing to do with red blood cells or other biological origin. Presumably they formed in these pores in the fossil bones by inorganic geochemical processes.

Branching, transparent tube-like structures that match the porosity of the trabecular bone. Small red grains were found to be iron oxide framboids. Source: Kaye, et al., PLoS ONE 3(7): e2808

Branching, transparent tube-like structures that match the porosity of the trabecular bone. Small red grains were found to be iron oxide framboids. Source: Kaye, et al., PLoS ONE 3(7): e2808

SEM micrograph of red objects (approx. 10 micron diameter) found in dinosaur bones. These are iron oxide framboid clusters. Source: Kaye, et al., PLoS ONE 3(7): e2808

SEM micrograph of red objects (approx. 10 micron diameter) found in dinosaur bones. These are iron oxide framboid clusters. Source: Kaye, et al., PLoS ONE 3(7): e2808

Kaye, et al. [9] found that the infrared spectrum from organic material scraped from chambers in a fossil turtle shell (carapace) recovered from the Hell Creek formation better matched a modern bacterial biofilm than collagen protein from a modern chicken tendon. This supported their contention that the soft tissue in the fossils was bacterial in origin, not preserved reptilian tissue. Also, when they submitted some of the soft tissue extracted from fossil bones for carbon-14 dating, the results showed a modern date, again pointing to recent bacterial activity as the origin of these materials.

My opinions, which are subject to correction, on Kaye’s biofilm results [9] are:

( a ) From looking at the electronic micrographs, his identification of the little round red things as spheres of primarily inorganic iron oxide is correct. While they are clearly not red blood cells, the iron may have originated from the dinosaur hemoglobin.

( b) The soft stuff he scraped from the fossil turtle carapace might well be bacterial slime, as he proposed, based on the infrared signature. His paper notes, “A turtle carapace from the Hell Creek formation was selected for spectroscopy because of its proportionally large chambers in the trabecular bone that allowed scraping the coatings loose.” The “large chambers” might have served as accessible habitat for soil bacteria. This environment would differ from the hermetically-sealed, largely mineralized interior pores of dinosaur bones.

( c ) His carbon-14 results, giving post-1950 age to his organic matter, are not consistent with either a 70-million-year-old origin or a 4500-year-old Noahic Flood burial. It is possible that the interior of his particular bone sample was infiltrated by bacteria, or by humic or other inorganic soil acids.

For some months, Kaye’s biofilm thesis seemed more credible to the scientific community than Schweitzer’s contention that the soft tissues were the remnants of actual dinosaur tissue. Schweitzer’s team responded with an in-depth analysis of bones from an 80-million-year-old duckbill hadrosaur, B. canadensis [10]. These fossil bones were exhumed relatively quickly and rushed to the lab for analysis, to minimize exposure to the elements. Her team found the tissues in this second dinosaur were better-preserved than the earlier T. rex. The morphology of these tissues, their immunological behavior, and the sequences of amino acids in fragments of protein were consistent with them being derived from animal (dinosaur) tissue, not from bacteria. Schweitzer writes [2]:

As we had hoped, we found cells embedded in a matrix of white collagen fibers in the animal’s bone. The cells exhibited long, thin, branchlike extensions that are characteristic of osteocytes, which we could trace from the cell body to where they connected to other cells. A few of them even contained what appeared to be internal structures, including possible nuclei.

Furthermore, extracts of the duckbill’s bone reacted with antibodies that target collagen and other proteins that bacteria do not manufacture, refuting the suggestion that our soft-tissue structures were merely biofilms. In addition, the protein sequences we obtained from the bone most closely resembled those of modern birds, just as [the earlier T. rex’s] did. And we sent samples of the duckbill’s bone to several different labs for independent testing, all of which confirmed our results.

The high-resolution protein sequences from this duckbill dinosaur showed it to be more closely related to living birds than to living alligators [10]. This is consistent with evolutionary expectations from the fossil record. Statistical analyses of collagen protein gave a “robust” grouping of the two dinosaurs (the duckbill hadrosaur and the earlier T. rex protein sequences) with birds (ostrich and chicken), but there was not enough sequence data to correctly parse out the relationships among the two dinosaurs and the two birds.

The analyses showed evidence for crosslinking of the proteins, and other chemical modifications (e.g., “unusual complexes between C, N, and Fe”) that are consistent with long-term aging and stabilization of this material. Schweitzer noted [2] that these findings evidently swayed scientific opinion in her direction: “After we reported these findings in Science in 2009, I heard no complaints.”

Nevertheless, some researchers continue to criticize her protein sequencing results, and as of mid-2017 no other research group has been able to detect proteins in dinosaur fossils which can be sequenced to show they are not just contamination from other, modern sources.

Mechanisms for Ancient Protein Preservation

Schweitzer has shifted focus in recent years from simply demonstrating that fragments of protein did survive for millions of years in dinosaur bones, to considering the mechanisms of how this protein was preserved. In a 2005 article [11] she acknowledged that, “Evidence supporting the preservation of endogenous biomolecules in the pre-Cenozoic fossil record has generally been met with skepticism, because it is assumed that primary organic molecules cannot withstand the alterations and breakdown that occur during diagenesis.” However, this skeptical opinion was based on test-tube experiments which may not adequately represent the conditions within the pores of dinosaur bone: “Laboratory experiments designed to approximate molecular diagenesis apply physical and chemical parameters not normally encountered in nature (e.g. pH <1, T >300 ⁰C) and do not account for the protective effects of mineral association. Therefore, their utility as a proxy for diagenetic processes at the molecular level in naturally preserved samples is somewhat limited.” Schweitzer went on to list some 16 earlier studies which showed that “ amino acids, short peptides, and amino sugars can persist within fossils over a wide geological age distribution”, plus 14 studies where “immunological techniques have identified antigenic compounds in fossils of varying ages and from various source taxa.”

Schweitzer published a broad review [12] of “Soft Tissue Preservation in Terrestrial Mesozoic Vertebrates” in 2011. Citing more than 200 studies, she discussed many prior instances of soft tissue finds among Mesozoic fossils. The Mesozoic era is seen as ranging from about 252 to 66 million years ago, and has been termed the “Age of Reptiles”, since they were dominant animals on land, in the air, and in the sea. Most examples of tissue preservation are of the skin and its appendages, including scales, feathers, and claws. These “consist largely of durable and waterproof keratin proteins”. Keratin has high preservation potential “because of its molecular structure, its tendency to form cross-links, and its abundant, nonpolar amino acids.”

However, even these finds are unusual, since the norm is for skin as well as underlying tissue to completely decompose:

Because the carbon and nitrogen that make up proteins, DNA, cells, and tissues of multicellular organisms are useful to microbes for metabolic energy, organic remains are normally degraded rapidly postmortem; indeed, under normal circumstances, more than 99% of the reduced carbon making up these components is returned quickly to the carbon cycle by microbes. Taphonomic experiments show that in most cases where whole carcasses of been deposited on the ground surface, they can be completely skeletonized in as little as 2 to 3 weeks, and degradation-linked changes in cell morphology/chemistry can occur within minutes of death. Consequently, the presence of originally soft tissue components or cells in association with fossilized remains of extinct organisms shows that processes normally involved in degradation have been slowed or arrested soon after death, and before complete decay occurs.

Schweitzer offers some suggestions for how this mitigation of decay may come about. If an animal carcass dries out fairly rapidly, its tissues can undergo changes which render them more stable: “…early desiccation through mummification may make these specimens prime targets for the recovery of biomolecules other than collagen.”

As an aside, many of the eye-catching headlines about “mummified dinosaurs” are misleading. For instance, a 2007 National Geographic article was captioned, ” ‘Dinosaur Mummy’ Found; Has Intact Skin, Tissue “. What you only discover half-way through the article is that the skin and other tissue have been replaced by minerals, so this is not the preservation of organic soft tissue, but rather the preservation of the detailed physical forms of the original soft tissues. This is interesting, but it is also reasonably well-understood, at least in outline. Lingham-Soliara and Glabb [13] reported on their analysis of the microstructure of collagen from decomposed dolphin, python and turtle tissue, which had subsequently been air-dried. They found that, despite this severe exposure to decay and dehydration, “many collagen fibres maintained their structural integrity, showing little degradation”. Also, “re-hydrating the dehydrated tissue showed minimal structural loss”. They concluded that a viable path for the preservation of soft tissue long enough for it to become mineralized (fossilized) would be for an animal to die during a dry spell (which presumably also killed off most scavengers), become mummified, and later get covered with mineral-rich water or sediments.

Schweitzer [12] also mentioned earlier studies which discussed the stabilization of tissues within mineral settings like the pores of bone:

Close association with the mineral phase (Child 1995) may act similarly to chemical fixation (e.g., with formaldehyde), offsetting enzymatic and microbial degradation (Kharalkar et al. 2009 and references therein). This may occur because microbial enzymes are too large for most pores in bone and because the mineral phase of bone forms a barrier to digestion (Trueman & Martill 2002, Turner-Walker 2008). Alternatively it may occur because the small size, large surface area, and reactivity of bone mineral crystals may inhibit enzymatic degradation, in a process similar to that demonstrated for clay grains (Butterfield 1990, 2003). Finally, the constraints of association with mineral may prevent molecular swelling during degradation, ultimately preventing access to more reactive sites on molecules (M. J. Collins, personal communication).



A 2011 study by San Antonio, Schweitzer and others [14] involved the analysis of fragments (peptides) of collagen protein recovered from dinosaur bones, and mapping the results onto molecular models of collagen derived from existing species to determine the configuration of the collagen molecules within the dinosaur bones. The abstract reads, in part:

The dinosaur peptides localized to fibril regions protected by the close packing of collagen molecules, and contained few acidic amino acids. Four peptides mapped to collagen regions crucial for cell-collagen interactions and tissue development. Dinosaur peptides were not represented in more exposed parts of the collagen fibril or regions mediating intermolecular cross-linking. Thus functionally significant regions of collagen fibrils that are physically shielded within the fibril may be preferentially preserved in fossils.

These results show empirically that structure-function relationships at the molecular level could contribute to selective preservation in fossilized vertebrate remains across geological time, suggest a ‘preservation motif’, and bolster current concepts linking collagen structure to biological function. This non-random distribution supports the hypothesis that the peptides are produced by the extinct organisms and suggests a chemical mechanism for survival.

San Antonio, et al. [14] note that extrapolations of glassware studies of protein degradation at accelerated conditions of acidity and high temperature predict that protein strands cannot last more than a few million years (at 10 ⁰C), but suggest that these models may not be appropriate, since “they do not consider the molecules in their native state (i.e., folded, closely-packed, cross-linked or, in the case of bone, stabilized by association with the mineral phase).”

Demarchi, et al. [31] have recently quantified and mechanistically described the stabilization of proteins which are bound to a mineral surface.  They found that this surface effect accounts for the survival of original proteins in fossil ostrich egg shells in hot African climates for at least 3.8 million years, which is longer than otherwise expected. They calculated that this corresponds to protein survival for at least 16 million years at a cooler constant temperature of 10 C as would be typical of north-west Europe.

Fazale Rana of Reasons to Believe (an evangelical Christian ministry which accepts an old earth) unpacked the significance of these findings [15] :

Collagen’s basic structural unit is called a triple helix, consisting of three protein chains intertwining around each other. At certain points along the triple helix, the individual protein strands are chemically bound to each other to form crosslinks.

Numerous collagen triple helices assemble in a staggered fashion to form a larger structure called a collagen fibril. Large numbers of collagen fibrils in turn assemble, with the aid of other proteins, into collagen fibers.

Source: Fazale Rana, “Structure of Dinosaur Collagen Unravels the Case for a Young Earth”, Reasons to Believe, August 10, 2011.

Source: Fazale Rana, “Structure of Dinosaur Collagen Unravels the Case for a Young Earth”, Reasons to Believe, August 10, 2011.

The highly intertwined, cross-linked structure of collagen makes it reasonable that fragments of this molecule could survive for 68 million years. Even if the individual protein strands break down, the fiber would still remain largely intact because of all the association points. Once the protein strand breaks, the fragments are held in close proximity by the contact points. This forced closeness allows for broken strands to occasionally rejoin and reform the original protein. If the broken strands were not held juxtaposed to each other, the fragments would diffuse away from each other, thus, preventing the reversal of the degradation process.

Finally, collagen’s association with the bone matrix provides added stability to the collagen proteins. Within the bone matrix, collagen fibers adsorb to the mineral component of bone. The contact with the surface protects the protein and keeps the pieces of collagen juxtaposed whenever the protein strands break.

In 2016 Rana, a biochemist by profession, published Dinosaur Blood and the Age of the Earth, a short book dedicated to the questions around dinosaur soft tissue. After describing finds of soft tissue in dinosaur and other ancient fossils, he explains why they do not mean the earth is young. He debunks the young earth creationist claims that radiogenic dating of rocks is unreliable, and describes nine conditions or mechanisms which can work together to help preserve protein remnants in dinosaur bones.

After death, cell-destroying enzymes can be let loose in the body, accelerating decay. However, in a 2002 review of the survival of organic matter in bone, Collins et al. [16] affirmed that “the collagen in bone is protected by the physical exclusion of microbial extracellular enzymes.” According to Peterson et al. [17], after microbes invade the outermost pores of dinosaur bones, their metabolic activities lead to mineral deposits which hermetically seal off the innermost zones of the bones from further attack by microbes.

Osteocyte Cells, Traces of DNA, and Iron as a Preservative

A 2013 article in Bone by Schweitzer, et al. [18] covered a number of topics. Whereas her earlier studies had dealt mainly on characterizing collagen-based structures in dinosaur bones, here she focused on what appeared to be the remnants of osteocyte cells. Osteocytes are the most common type of cell found within bone. They help to regulate the mineralization chemistry of the bone, to maintain proper bone mass. To obtain the osteocyte remains, she first removed the mineral portion of bones from two dinosaurs using weak acid solutions, as described earlier. Then, to free the osteocytes from their collagen matrix, she used an enzyme that decomposes collagen. The recovered osteocytes were reddish, due to a high iron content, and physically resembled osteocytes extracted from extant birds.

Schweitzer, et al. [18] used antibodies that bind to specific proteins to demonstrate the presence of four proteins expected to be in osteocytes, namely actin, tubulin, PHEX, and histone H4. The patterns of the binding of these antibodies within the dinosaur osteocytes matched the patterns seen for binding to osteocytes extracted from ostrich. The antibodies did not bind to surrounding matrix tissue or to associated sediments. Mass spectrometry also found amino acid sequences consistent with these four proteins. Actin, tubulin, and histone H4 are not found in bacteria, so this is further evidence against the biofilm explanation of these soft tissues.

A particular PHEX antibody, called OB 7.3, was used here. Among extant taxa tested, it binds only for birds. It was shown in this study to bind strongly to the dinosaur and ostrich osteocytes, but not at all to alligator osteocyte.

Histone proteins, such as the H4 found in the dinosaur bones, are associated with DNA. The presence of fragments of actual DNA in the dinosaur osteocytes is suggested by the binding of an antibody for the DNA backbone, and the binding of two chemical stains known as PI and DAPI. The staining for the dinosaur cells showed similar spatial patterns as the stains in ostrich osteocytes, supporting the view that this DNA is from the original dinosaur cells, rather than from microbial infiltration. These stains can bind to DNA strands as short as 4 to 20 base pairs, so these results do not require that long sequences have been preserved. Only about 15-20% of the dinosaur cells showed any response to staining, and for those that did react, the staining was much less intense than for the ostrich. Thus, any DNA remnants in the dinosaur bones are quite degraded. Schweitzer’s team could only detect bare traces of DNA, not nearly enough to do sequencing so as to verify that this is actually dinosaur DNA: “These data are not sufficient to support the claim that DNA visualized in these cells is dinosaurian in origin.”

In a 2016 interview [29], Schweitzer noted:

“I’ve found DNA in dinosaur bone,” said Mary Schweitzer, a molecular paleontologist at North Carolina State University. “But we did not sequence it — we couldn’t recover it, [and] we couldn’t characterize it. Whoever it belongs to is a mystery.”

It’s no surprise that dinosaur remains contain DNA, she said. Bone is partly made up of a mineral called hydroxyapatite, which has a strong affinity for certain biomolecules, including DNA. In fact, researchers often use hydroxyapatite to purify and concentrate DNA in the lab, Schweitzer said.

“That’s one of the reasons that I don’t work with DNA myself,” Schweitzer told Live Science. “It is too prone to contamination and really difficult to interpret.”

The poor showing for DNA in dinosaur fossils is a strike against young earth creationism: if the dinosaurs were buried in a great flood only 4500 years ago, we should be finding gobs of DNA with nice long sequences in at least some of the dinosaur remains in our possession. It is now common to sequence DNA from certain other fossil finds, but not from dinosaurs.

In 2012 Allentoft, et al. [19] published a study of the DNA preserved in bones from specimens of moa bird that were excavated in New Zealand from anoxic, limestone-buffered sediments . The moa was a large flightless bird that was the dominant herbivore in New Zealand before the Maori arrived and hunted them to extinction. In this study, the left leg bones from 158 moa skeletons were dated by radiocarbon, and assessed for DNA content. The dates for these skeletons ranged from 602 to 7839 years before present, with all but one specimen being younger than about 5800 years. The authors proposed an exponential fit to the data, with a half-life of 521 years for mitochondrial DNA. This model predicts that DNA would completely degrade to a single base pair in 131,000 years at 15 ⁰C (59 ⁰F), in 882,000 years at 5 ⁰C (41 ⁰F), and in 6,830,000 years at a glacial temperature of -5 ⁰C (23 ⁰F).

This would seem to preclude the survival of any DNA fragments in the ~ 68 million-year-old dinosaur bones in the Schweitzer, et al. [18] study. However, the data in the Allentoft, et al. [19] study were highly scattered; only 38.6% of the variation in DNA degradation between moa-bone samples was accounted for by age differences.  For the set of results which all date to about 2700 years ago, the DNA amounts vary from about 0.002 to 100. That is a factor of 50,000 difference from least to most, showing the enormous variability of results just within this relatively small, homogeneous data set.

This indicates that the rate of DNA decay can vary widely from sample to sample due to various environmental factors. For instance, the DNA degradation rates in the moa bones were found to be nearly 400 times slower than predicted from published kinetic data of in vitro DNA decomposition. Thus, it is not clear that these relative short-term (less than 8000 years old) results with bird bones in a limestone setting necessarily predict the fate of DNA in other specimens, such as the much larger dinosaur bones which were deposited in sandstone. As another example of the longevity of DNA under some conditions, fragments of mitochondrial DNA, long enough to sequence, have recently been recovered from a 400,000 year old hominin fossil [20].

Schweitzer, et al. [18] proposed a number of molecular mechanisms for long-term preservation of cells and some of their chemical components within dinosaur bones. These factors include isolation within tiny pores in the bone, association with the bone mineral, the tertiary structures of the proteins, and the role of iron in promoting cross-linking. I’ll quote that whole section of that paper, as usual omitting the literature references:

       Cells are usually completely degraded soon after the death of the organism, so how could ‘cells’ and the molecules that comprise them persist in Mesozoic bone? In the mineralized matrix of bone, many factors converge to alter the dynamics of cell death and degradation, ultimately contributing to disruption of the degradation pathway. For example, necrotic or apoptotic cells are rapidly destroyed by phagocytosis or by microbial attack post-mortem, but osteocytes are inaccessible to other live cells, which may, in part, explain their preservation in these ancient tissues. Second, osteocytes are inherently resistant to degradation because location within the bone matrix inhibits cell division, therefore cells may be required to last the lifetime of the organism. Osteocyte expression of apoptotic repressor proteins may also contribute to their persistence. The association of actin with alpha-actinin and fimbrin confers stability to actin over the lifetime of the cell and may also stabilize the protein after death. Finally, osteocytes have limited access to oxygen within the bone matrix, and may thus be protected from oxidative damage. 

     Cell death, whether by apoptosis or necrosis, is quickly followed by autolysis, which normally destroys the cell and releases autolytic enzymes into the surrounding environment. Autolysis, however, is self-limiting, and after reaching a certain threshold, the remaining cells are stable for long periods.

     The association with mineral affords other protections that are unavailable to non-biomineralized tissues and cells. The microcrystalline surfaces of apatite may act like clay grains, adsorbing degradative

enzymes and inactivating them, and in addition to limiting access of microbes to osteocytes, the rigid bone matrix may also inhibit denaturation and molecular swelling that precedes autolysis.

     In 2007, we hypothesized that iron, released post-mortem from hemoglobin and myoglobin through autolysis/degradation of red blood cells and muscle tissue, would act to “fix” both tissues and molecules, a hypothesis also put forth by others Biologically active Fe (II), which is soluble, would rapidly convert to Fe (III) upon release from the cell, and precipitate out of solution. Iron is a reactive oxygen species (ROS), and this switch triggers the formation of hydroxyl radicals Through a cascade of events referred to as Fenton chemistry highly reactive hydroxyl radicals trigger both crosslinking of proteins and peroxidation and crosslinking of the fatty acids making up cell membranes Because osteocytes are intimately linked through filopodia to the vascular system of bone and because the iron-binding protein ferritin has been identified in this cell line they would be susceptible to this chain reaction.

      Iron is implicated in the preservation of these transparent microstructures by its intimate association with the cell “membranes” in analytical TEM (Fig. S1), and further supported by the increase in antibody response in all cases in which these dinosaur ‘cells’ have been treated with the iron chelator PIH (see Extended Experimental Methods in Appendix A). If the membranes of these ‘cells’ were preserved through iron-mediated crosslinking (Fig S1), it also provides a mechanism whereby membrane associated proteins may be preserved.                 Actin and tubulin have a tertiary structure that make them inherently resistant to early degradation but their close association with a naturally ‘fixed’ membrane would increase their preservation potential greatly. Similarly, PHEX is a transmembrane protein, and those regions of the protein embedded within the membrane would be naturally ‘fixed’ along with the membrane. Iron may also function to bind oxygen, preventing oxidative damage to tissues and molecules. Finally, once the ‘cells’ are fixed in this manner, they may be further stabilized by mobilization and template mediated precipitation of microcrystalline apatite in early diagenesis.

In another 2013 study, Schweitzer, et al. [21] experimentally probed the role of iron in preserving proteins. After an animal dies, the iron from the hemoglobin in their red blood cells can be released to interact with other tissues. They cite prior publications which describe how iron can facilitate the formation of oxy radicals, which “facilitate protein cross-linking in a manner analogous to the actions of tissue fixatives (e.g. formaldehyde), thus increasing resistance of these ‘fixed’ biomolecules to enzymatic or microbial digestion”. Using an array of analytical techniques, they observed iron-rich nanoparticles as being intimately associated with the preserved flexible vessel tissue recovered from the bones of T. rex and duckbill dinosaurs. The high-magnification image below shows inorganic iron-rich nanoparticles associated with the organic layer of the vessel of a T. rex. In this image the iron particles appear to be concentrated on the outside of the vessel. The duckbill vessel tissue (see Figure 1(b) of Schweitzer, et al. [21]) is more uniformly infiltrated throughout by iron particles. It seems likely to me that the iron was originally more finely dispersed and more available to do chemistry, and later precipitated into these nanoparticles.

Direct contact with iron or iron particles, as with direct contact with bone mineral, can assist in tissue stabilization. In these images, internal cellular features like chromatin and nuclear membrane were visible in ostrich tissue, but not in the dinosaur structures, which is consistent with substantial degradation of the internals of the dinosaur cells.

Transmission Electron Microscope (TEM) image of vessel from T. rex bone, showing iron-rich nanoparticles associated with organic layer. Source: Schweitzer, et al., Proc. R. Soc. B 281: 20132741 [21].

Transmission Electron Microscope (TEM) image of vessel from T. rex bone, showing iron-rich nanoparticles associated with organic layer. Source: Schweitzer, et al., Proc. R. Soc. B 281: 20132741 [21].

 When iron was chemically removed from the vessels by treatment with chelating agents, the response of the vessel tissues to specific protein antibodies increased dramatically. This is another indication of the association of residual iron with these preserved proteins.

Schweitzer, et al. [21] also incubated blood vessels from ostriches in a variety of solutions to test the effect of hemoglobin-derived iron on tissue preservation. Some ostrich vessels were incubated in a solution of hemoglobin. This hemoglobin had been extracted from the red blood cells of chicken and ostrich blood, and then re-diluted to its original concentration in the avian blood. The vessels sitting in hemoglobin solution have shown no signs of degradation for more than two years. In contrast, the ostrich vessels in plain water or phosphate buffered saline (PBS) showed significant degradation within three days, i.e. more than 240 times faster degradation than with the hemoglobin. These results dramatically demonstrate the efficacy of iron-based tissue preservation, which has not generally been taken into account in earlier estimates of how long proteins can survive.

A 2014 study by Boatman, et al. [22] involved further experiments to investigate iron-based effect on proteins. Initial infrared spectroscopy suggested the presence of highly crosslinked collagen within dinosaur fossil tissue. The researchers identified two likely non-enzymatic crosslinking mechanisms, Fenton’s reaction and glycation. Both of these reactions depend on the oxidation potential of iron. To test the roles of these mechanisms, they incubated fresh, demineralized chicken bone using corresponding treatments to induce collagen crosslinking. Analytical results showed that these treatments did indeed induce the type of crosslinking which is expected to make the collagen more resistant to decomposition. Also, the preserved dinosaur tissues were found to be sufficiently crosslinked to withstand a chemical which cleaves lightly-crosslinked molecules:

Demineralized chicken tissues incubated according to Fenton’s reaction and glycation yielded products consistent with induced hypercrosslinking… Both treated chicken tissues developed small ester peaks (approximately 1732 cm-1); in comparison, a prominent ester peak was observed in all FTIR spectra collected for Tyrannosaurus rex. Fossil vessels treated with the reducing agent [NaBH4, which can cleave low-order intermolecular crosslinks] yielded no significant changes in FTIR analysis, suggesting that the non-enzymatic crosslinks formed in this tissue are irreducible. Such bond formations occur between three or more peptide strands, and as such, tend to be highly resistant to reductive cleavage. 

Assessment of Evidence That Soft Tissue Can Persist for 70 Million Years

As might be expected, young earth creationists have taken these observations of soft tissue from dinosaur bones as evidence that these fossils cannot be more than a few thousand years old – and therefore, conventional geological methods like radioactive dating must be terribly flawed, since these methods show the rock layers entombing these fossils as being about 70 million years old.

I cited a couple of these young earth articles at the beginning of this article. Googling “dinosaur soft tissue age earth” produced thousands of results. Dozens and dozens of these hits are sites promoting young earth creationism, claiming that Schweitzer’s results disprove evolution and radioactive dating of rocks. Some of these sites misrepresent the facts, stating that actual red blood cells have been found. As noted above, that is not the case: these little round red things are chunks of iron oxide, like rust, which just happen to be about the size and shape of red blood cells. The actual organic remains are highly crosslinked remnants of a several proteins which are known to have stable structures. These remnants retain the shape of the original soft tissue, which is not surprising, since they were confined within tiny pores in the dinosaur bones.

The main attack by young earth creationists on the antiquity of these finds is an argument from incredulity, based on ignorance: “It is obviously impossible for any trace of soft tissue to endure for 70 million years.” But, how do they know that it is impossible? They don’t. Yes, experiments on protein degradation in test tubes indicate that proteins would break down completely within about a million years. But lots of examples show that the rate of protein degradation varies wildly, depending on the conditions, so no one can say with certainty how long some fragments of protein can last, preserved with iron and sealed in mineral pores. We simply don’t know how this process progresses over a span of millions of years. It is difficult to devise definitive experiments to mimic that timespan.

The ostrich vessels discussed above had their lifetime before degradation extended from three days to more than two years, a factor of over 240. We can even see widely differing decomposition rates in our food, depending on how it is treated. If you leave a jug of milk on the counter for two weeks, lots of biochemistry will take place (mainly lactose fermentation to acids but also including protein degradation) which may render it unfit for human consumption. However, if the milk is contacted with the right bacteria and other materials, the milk proteins can be preserved in the form of cheese which can sit stably on the shelf for years. Similarly, if beef is ground to hamburger and left in a package on the counter for a week, it will rot. However, if the beef is sliced thin and dried to jerky, it will last for months. Same milk and same beef, but with a different set of conditions they can retain proteins for ten or a hundred times longer, depending on their circumstances.

To take another example, in forensic studies at the University of Tennessee “body farm”, donated corpses are deliberately placed on or in the ground to naturally decay so researchers can track exactly how they decompose as they go through the stages of bloating, consumption by maggots, etc. From studies like there, we know that the flesh and skin can decay off a human in about a month under humid conditions. So, after a month, a man’s face may look something like this:

Now, consider this individual:

Tollund bog-man. Source: Wikipedia, “Tollund Man”

Tollund bog-man. Source: Wikipedia, “Tollund Man”

When he was discovered in a Danish peat bog, looking so dapper, the police were summoned on the assumption that he was a recent murder victim. This “Tollund Man” was in fact a murder victim, but the crime (likely a ritualistic human sacrifice) took place over 2200 years ago. It happens that the chemical conditions in the bog into which he was thrown facilitated preservation of skin and some other soft tissue. Notice that with this and other bog-persons, the wrong approach would be to insist that, because normally human skin does not endure for thousands of years, they must have died recently. Instead, researchers took into account other dating information to realize these bog people were over a thousand years old, even though the preservation mechanism was not initially known. Comparing 2200 years of preservation here, versus complete flesh decomposition within a month on the Tennessee body farm, we have a factor of more than 25,000 difference in rates of soft tissue degradation.

This again makes the point that rates and modes of protein and soft tissue decomposition can vary dramatically, depending on circumstances. Thus, it is absurd to say that because proteins disappear in a million years under one set of conditions, therefore protein remnants could not endure for more than 100 million years under some other conditions. The claim that “We know that substantial fragments of proteins, even in some cross-linked form, cannot survive for 80 million years” is simply not true. Since that claim (in one form or another) is at the heart of the young earth interpretation of these fossil tissues, the young earth case here collapses.

Invariance of Radioactive Decay Rates

We may contrast the uncertainties regarding biological decay, to certainties regarding the physical decay of radioactive elements. These decay rates have been measured in many laboratories in many ways for many years, and they are essentially invariant. There are some particular circumstances where radioactive decay rates can be accelerated, but these are well-understood within the framework of physics. For instance, in a nuclear reactor or bomb, an artificially high density of uranium means that the neutrons from one splitting nucleus have a high probability of striking another nucleus and causing it to split. Also, the “s” shell electrons interact with the nucleus, so perturbing these electrons can affect the nuclear decay rate, sometimes dramatically. However, these effects are understood and predictable. See Wikipedia article “Radioactive Decay” for more on this; this article also notes that many independent observations indicate that nuclear decay rates have been constant for millions of years: “Comparison of laboratory experiments over the last century, studies of the Oklo natural nuclear reactor (which exemplified the effects of thermal neutrons on nuclear decay), and astrophysical observations of the luminosity decays of distant supernovae (which occurred far away so the light has taken a great deal of time to reach us), for example, strongly indicate that unperturbed decay rates have been constant (at least to within the limitations of small experimental errors) as a function of time.”

Since radioactive dating militates for an old earth, of course young earth creationists will not concede to its validity. They advance various objections, but these objections have been refuted over and over again by practicing scientists. For instance, see these resources:

Radiometric Dating  A Christian Perspective – – This is a classic, in-depth discussion of radioactive dating of rocks, by an evangelical scientist.

What evidence is there for the earth being billions of years old?  [by Russell Downs at BibleQ.net]  Brief discussion of radioactive dating of rocks, answering objections raised by YE creationists.

Radiometric Dating Does Work! – – By geologist and National Medal of Science winner Brent Dalrymple. Delves into several detailed examples, including the Hell Creek formation.

For my part, I have documented the errors of young earth arguments regarding the dating of Grand Canyon rocks, and the dating of some recent lava flows.   I have also compiled some other physical evidences (e.g. annual layers in lakes and in glacial ice) which demonstrate that the earth is much older than 6000 years.

It would be tedious to retrace all those prior discussions. Thousands and thousands of radioactive dating measurements have been made, so naturally there will be a few that give anomalous results. For many of these cases, it can be seen why the results were odd – for instance, the rock sample may have been re-heated after it initially solidified, which partially re-set the atomic clock. Also, fifty years ago the impact of retained excess argon for K-Argon dating was not understood, which led to mistakenly old dating of some recent lava flows; this problem is now corrected by using the argon-argon dating method instead.   It is disingenuous for young earth proponents to focus on these relatively few anomalous results, and wave away the estimated 95% of radioactive dates that fit precisely with the ancient dates from other, independent dating methods.

YE creationists claim that their “RATE” program found evidence of faster radioactive decay in the past, which would explain away the mainstream scientists’ radioactive dating results. However, the RATE scientists did not find any actual evidence of faster radioactive decay; they simply asserted that there MUST have been accelerated radioactive decay, in order to meet their existing young earth model. They presented no valid physical support for this. They rehashed four arguments against conventional old-earth dating, but these arguments have been thoroughly debunked by practicing scientists [36]. Furthermore, the high rates of radioactive decay proposed by the RATE would have generated so much heat that the earth would have melted, and all the occupants of Noah’s ark would have been killed from radiation. So this whole “faster radioactivity rates in the past” proposal is a nonstarter.

If some reader is convinced he is in possession of evidence that radioactive dating fails, then he should inform the larger scientific community of these findings. To overturn the last hundred years of physics would merit a legitimized platform to tell the world at large that old-earth dating methods are unreliable. It might even merit a Nobel Prize. The standard young earth creationist excuse for not doing this is: “But those close-minded godless scientists will not allow publication of anything that threatens their paradigm.” I didn’t say it would be easy, but determined mavericks can always find a way to get their findings into scientific discussion, if there is any merit to their case. Young earth geologists have been allowed to present a number of papers and to lead field trips at recent meetings of the secular Geological Society of America, so it is in fact possible to get a hearing among geologists for an unusual perspective, as long as there is solid supporting data.

That said, let’s look briefly at the standard geological dating for the Hell Creek formation from which Mary Schweitzer’s dinosaur fossils were chipped. All over the world, an abrupt change in the animals represented in the fossil record can be recognized at the boundary between rocks of the Cretaceous (“K”) period, and the overlying Paleogene (formerly called “Tertiary”) rocks. This change in fauna has been obvious for over a century. In a number of locations a thin layer of glassy “tektites”, which are fallout from a giant meteorite strike on the earth, are found right at that boundary. Many independent radiometric measurements have been made on these tektites, consistently showing them to be around 64-66 million years old.

This “K–Pg” (formerly “K-T”) boundary is also marked all over the world by iridium deposits, which again are consistent with a huge asteroid impact. (Meteorites can contain much higher levels of iridium than found in normal earth rocks). Although the exact mechanism of the catastrophe is not clear, it is widely thought that this meteorite strike is tied to the mass extinctions of some three-quarters of plant and animal species on Earth, including all non-avian dinosaurs, which occurred at that time.

There is such an iridium anomaly at the top of the Hell Creek formation. Immediately above this in many spots is a thin bed of coal (the “Z-coal”), which is marked by a white arrow in the photo below.

The dark band in this photo (indicated by the white arrow) is the Z-coal, marking the top of the Hell Creek formation in Montana. Source: Museum of Paleontology, U.C. Berkeley http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/mesozoic/mesozoic.php

The dark band in this photo (indicated by the white arrow) is the Z-coal, marking the top of the Hell Creek formation in Montana. Source: Museum of Paleontology, U.C. Berkeley http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/mesozoic/mesozoic.php

There are some bentonite clay layers within this coal bed, which incorporate minerals from contemporary volcanic ashfalls. Some of these minerals (e.g. sanidine, biotite, zircon) are amenable to radiometric dating. Since the Z-coal lies just above the Hell Creek formation, the Z-coal was deposited somewhat later. Thus, the dinosaur fossils in the Hell Creek rocks must be older than the Z-coal.

Here are some radioactive datings of ash-containing layers at the Z-coal bed, from a table compiled by U.S. Geological Survey radiometric dating expert Brent Dalrymple. (See further discussion on these data in endnote [30], showing that these data are not “cherry-picked”, but instead accurately represent the results from dating these layers):

Material                        Method; Number of Analyses     Age in Millions of Years

Sanidine                        40Ar/39Ar total fusion; 28          64.8±0.1

Sanidine                        40Ar/39Ar age spectrum; 1         66.0±0.5

Sanidine                        40Ar/39Ar age spectrum; 1         64.7±0.1

Sanidine                        40Ar/39Ar total fusion; 17          64.8±0.2

Biotite, Sanidine         K-Ar; 12                                            64.6±1.0

Biotite, Sanidine         Rb-Sr isochron; 1                          63.7±0.6

Zircon                             U-Pb concordia; 1                         63.9±0.8

Source: G. Brent Dalrymple ,“Radiometric Dating Does Work!” ,RNCSE 20 (3): 14-19, 2000

This shows that three completely different radioactive dating methods, applied to three different minerals, all gave the same dates, within a spread of only 4%. (Ar/Ar dating is basically K-Ar dating, with improved cross-checking built in). Moreover, these dates are very close to the dates (64-66 million years) determined elsewhere for the tektites that mark the K-T boundary. This uniformity of nuclear radioactive decay stands in stark contrast to the enormous and unpredictable variations in the rate of the biological decay of soft tissues discussed above.

Thus, it is irrational to use the unexpected perseverance of flexible tissues in dinosaur bones as ground to reject the radioactive dating of the rock layers in which these bones were found. But that is what the young earth creationists are trying to do. This just makes them, and their version of the Christian faith, look silly.

The Dinosaur-Bird Connection

Dinosaurs were clearly reptiles, and so the normal expectation would be that the protein sequences recovered from dinosaur fossils would more closely match extant reptiles than any other class of living animals. However, mainstream scientists, guided by the hypothesis of evolution and the common ancestry of all animals, have a different expectation. They would predict that the proteins from dinosaurs would be closer to birds than to any living reptiles.

Here is why: when scientists systematically group species by shared characteristics (cladistic analysis) they consistently find that birds are most closely related to the dinosaurs known as theropods. They share so many characteristics [23] that extinct and living birds are usually classified as lying within the theropod group. (It should be noted that birds have continued to diverge from their reptilian origins over the past 150 million years. Most modern birds no longer display features like teeth or claws on their wings, which were more prominent in earlier fossil birds, so birds now look very unlike reptiles.)

Below is a cladogram of a branch of reptiles known as “Archosaurs”. Dinosaurs (“Dinosauria”) appear at the lower right of this figure.

Cladogram of Archosaurs, a branch of reptiles. Source: Wikipedia article “Archosaur”, with notes added.

Cladogram of Archosaurs, a branch of reptiles. Source: Wikipedia article “Archosaur”, with notes added.

Nearly all of these groups are extinct, and thus are known only from fossils. I put red boxes around the only two groups that have living representatives. These are the Crocodylmorpha (today’s crocodiles and alligators), and Theropoda, represented only by today’s birds. Other extant reptiles, such as lizards, snakes, and turtles, lie on entirely different branches of the evolutionary family tree, and thus are considered more distant from dinosaurs. I underlined two key dinosaur types (Tyrannosaurus and Hadrosaurs or duckbills) which figure in the academic work discussed above.

According to this cladistic scheme, dinosaurs are more closely related to birds than to any living reptile, and so the proteins extracted from the dinosaur bones should resemble bird proteins more than alligator or crocodile proteins, even though dinosaurs are reptiles like crocodiles. And that turns out to be the case: the protein sequences from the dinosaur bones do match birds more closely than alligators or crocodiles. Also, the PHEX antibody OB 7.3 which bound strongly to the dinosaur osteocytes cell remnants, binds to osteocytes from today’s birds, but not to osteocytes from reptiles like alligators. This again suggests that dinosaurs are more closely related to birds than to today’s reptiles.

Also, a key observation by Mary Schweitzer in 2003, published in 2005 [6], was that the T. rex thighbone in her possession displayed distinctive zones of medullary bone. As noted above, medullary bone temporarily appears within female bird bones, where it serves as a reservoir of calcium for producing the shells of eggs. In 2007 Lee and Werning [24] reported medullary bone in fossils of two other dinosaurs, the theropod Allosaurus and the ornithopod Tenontosaurus. Among today’s animals, medullary bone is only found in birds, not in reptiles. Thus, medullary bone “is an independent line of evidence supporting a close phylogenetic relationship between dinosaurs and birds” [25].

Thus, as happens again and again, predictions based on evolution were borne out upon experimental investigation.

Side comment on the dinosaur-bird connection: in most areas of science, there are a few hold-out researchers who cling to some position they took years ago (which was perhaps reasonable, based on the state of the data at the time), and do not fully engage with more recent evidence showing that they are wrong. For instance, brilliant astronomer Fred Hoyle went to his grave rejecting the Big Bang origin of our universe, despite the plethora of confirming evidence in the 1960’s and onward. Astrophysicist Thomas Gold, winner of many prestigious scientific awards, proposed in the 1950’s that gas and oil fields in the earth’s crust stemmed mainly from inorganic reservoirs or processes deep in the earth’s mantle. That was a decent proposal for the 1950’s, but he never changed his view after decades of results which showed unambiguously that petroleum derives from layers of deceased organisms that settled to the floors of ancient seas and lakes.

Similarly, there are a few researchers today who do not accept the bird-therapod evidence which has accumulated from fossil finds of the past two decades. Young earth creationists like to cite these mavericks as evidence that secular paleontology is in hopeless disarray. However, these skeptics seem to misunderstand the fossil evidence that does exist, and they fail to present competing testable cladograms. The University of California Museum of Paleontology puts it [23]:

Some researchers today do not agree that dinosaurs gave rise to birds, and are working to falsify this theory, but so far the evidence for the theory has swamped their efforts… Some researchers have raised issues that may seem to make the theropod origin of birds difficult to support, but these difficulties are more illusory than substantial. One proposed difficulty is the gap in the fossil record between the first known bird (Late Jurassic) and the dromaeosaurs, probable sister group of birds (Early Cretaceous). This overlooks the blatant fact that other maniraptoran coelurosaurs, such as Ornitholestes, Coelurus, and Compsognathus, are known from strata of Late Jurassic age. If other maniraptorans were there, it logically follows that the ancestors of dromaeosaurs were there…

Other arguments, such as the putative differences between theropod and bird finger development, or lung morphology, or ankle bone morphology, all stumble on the lack of relevant data on extinct theropods, misinterpretations of anatomy, simplifying assumptions about developmental flexibility, and/or speculations about convergence, biomechanics, or selective pressures. The opponents of the theropod hypothesis refuse to propose an alternative hypothesis that is falsifiable.

And now with Schweitzer’s work, the chemical analysis of the tissues from dinosaur bones has further supported the bird-dinosaur connection.

Further Findings

After Prof. Schweitzer showed it was possible to rigorously analyze protein remnants that are many millions of years old, many other researchers have trained their instrumentation on dinosaur and other ancient fossils. For instance, in 2015 a team from several London-area institutions used focused ion beam (FIB) sputtering to cut into fossil samples from eight Cretaceous dinosaurs. Bertazzo et al. [32] used various techniques such as electron microscopy and secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS) to examine the successive surfaces which were exposed by the ion beam etching. In four of the samples, they observed some carbon-rich fibrous structures which resemble the calcified collagen fibers found in modern bone. If these are original dinosaur tissue, these fibrous structures could be retaining the quaternary structure of the collagen proteins. However, until the proteins are actually sequenced, we cannot be sure that this is original tissue. Also, the mineral matrix in the fossils may have served to permanently fix the original fibrous structures in place, regardless of the eventual conformation of the proteins.

In a claw from a therapod dinosaur, Bertazzo et al. observed some carbon-rich structures which bear superficial resemblance to red blood cells (erythrocytes). The mass spec results are consistent with the presence of some sort of protein in this location. As we have pointed out repeatedly, the decomposition of biological materials varies enormously, depending on the sample history, so it is conceivable that some remnants of red blood cells have survived in this dinosaur claw. This would pose no challenge to the great antiquity of these specimens, since we already know that proteins can endure for millions of years. These structures are embedded in a mineral-rich “cement”, which might have served as a rigid cast to preserve the shape of some original cells and to keep their proteins trapped and protected from bacteria.

However, as with the fibrous structures, it will take protein sequencing to determine what is really there. Scientists have repeatedly observed things which looked like red blood cells, but turned out not to be. For instance, photos near the beginning of this article from Schweitzer and from Thomas Kaye both show little round red things the size of red blood cells sitting right there in blood vessels, but which were not in fact red blood cells. Thus, the true nature of the structures observed by Bertazzo et al. remains to be determined. A reason to suspect that these are not red blood cells is that they are only about 2 microns in length. This is very much smaller than the size of red blood cells in modern birds (9-15 microns) or reptiles (14-20 microns). It is doubtful that linear shrinkage can account for this magnitude of discrepancy. An Answers in Genesis article acknowledges that the size of these structures casts doubt on whether they are from red blood cells [33].

The popular press has not been able to overcome the temptation to sensationalize these findings. A BBC piece [34] started off with a proper headline which enclosed “blood cells” in quotes to denote the tentative nature of this finding, and ended with a brief interview with Mary Schweitzer who cautioned, “They did find amino acids consistent with proteins, but the data they presented do not really identify which proteins; for that they need additional data.” However, in the middle the reporter lapsed into mistakenly referring to these structures as outright “red blood cells”.  The headline on an article in The Guardian [35] gleefully proclaimed “75-million-year-old dinosaur blood and collagen discovered in fossil fragments. It is only near the end of that article that the admission was made that “More work is needed to be sure the features are genuine blood cells and collagen.”

Mary Schweitzer on Creation

On November 15, 2009, 60 Minutes aired an interview with Mary Schweitzer and her former professor, famed paleontologist Jack Horner. Horner got most of the air time at the beginning of the interview (largely focusing on his connection to the film Jurassic Park), and at the end with his sensational proposal to resurrect dinosaurs from chicken DNA. The more hard-science part is with Schweitzer, in the 5:00-11:30 time slot of this 14-minute piece. Below is a screen shot from her interview, and here is a link to the YouTube version.

Mary Schweitzer on 60 Minutes, Nov 2009. Source: YouTube

Mary Schweitzer on 60 Minutes, Nov 2009. Source: YouTube

Schweitzer reviews and recreates some of the key discoveries discussed above. She shows how perilous was one of the fossil excavations, and she has the interviewer, Lesley Stahl, get her tongue stuck to the highly porous dinosaur fossil bone.

The Comments on this YouTube video are mainly by young earth creationists, proclaiming that Schweitzer’s finds prove the earth is young. For instance: 

Proof that the world is only 6,000 years old, and these dinosaur tissue is still good because they only died recently during the flood! =D

 “Oh wait, they found what inside dinosaur bones???!!!!! That must mean soft tissue can last 70 million years. No other possible explanation. At least no other explanation that satisfies our faithless Bible-hating selves.” – Average secular scientist

 looks like the Bible is correct and evolution is a fairy tail for adults.

 The Truth is coming out…Dinosaurs are not dating back 68 million years….they are recent.

 Even the very scientists that have found this evidence are amazed at the fact that there should not be soft tissue finds in dinosaurs that are millions of years old. I find it quite comical that they choose to question the biochemical decay rates, and not the amount of years, of course we all know what would happen to them if they did. It is sad when scientists are so brainwashed or fearful that they can’t follow where the evidence leads. I have compared and so far I’ve only heard theories. 

this is not imposable GET A LIFE!!!!! you know now that the bible is right all along THE WORLD IS YOUNG! and all your resurch is not worth the paper it is written on!! go read the Bible save yourself more money that you will ever see. and save yourself more time than you will EVER!! have. what a Dinosaur Just go get one in the swamps of the Congo. Dinosaurs are not extinct

And so on. Some of these comments are more thoughtful than others, but they all demonstrate the widespread grass-roots support for the young earth creationist perspective.

(Side comment on “swamps of the Congo”: some young earth creationists pin their hopes on ephemeral sightings of  a creature supposedly resembling a dinosaur, in the steaming heart of the Dark Continent. In the unlikely event that these rumors are substantiated, and we do find that some species of reptilian dinosaur has survived till today, that would do nothing to prove a young earth. All it would show is that the fossil record is inherently incomplete, which is what evolutionists have been claiming all along as a reason why so few direct intermediate fossils are found. Nothing in evolutionary theory demands that every dinosaur species went extinct at the K-Pg boundary.)

It is clear from this interview that Mary Schweitzer is an intelligent, good-hearted person. But is she a “godless evolutionist”? As it turns out, she is a “godly evolutionist”. From a 2006 interview with the Smithsonian:

She describes herself as “a complete and total Christian.” On a shelf in her office is a plaque bearing an Old Testament verse: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”[26] 

It is likewise clear in a 2014 interview with Biologos [27] that Schweitzer is a conservative, evangelical Christian:

I do go to pretty conservative churches… I go to church because I want to learn and be held accountable. I want to learn more and more about what the Bible teaches… Everyone has to figure out what they need and why they go to church. The hunger in me which is fed in the churches I go to has to do with the fact that they preach right out of the Bible, and I need that. I guess I don’t go to church to hear political views and hear about how they need money—I go to hear about God.

Growing up with a conservative Christian background, she had believed that the secular science establishment promotes themes like evolution out of a desire to discredit biblical faith. However, when she took an actual paleontology class, she saw things differently [27]:

I think the thing that surprised me most about that class was that I had no idea, coming from a conservative Christian background, that scientists are not all trying to disprove God in whatever way they can. What we were not told growing up is that there’s a lot of very rigorous, hard science that allows us to interpret the lives of organisms we’ve never seen—and knowing this made me rethink a few things, because I know God and God is not a deceiver. If you step back a little bit and let God be God I don’t think there’s any contradiction at all between the Bible and what we see in nature. He is under no obligation to meet our expectations. He is bigger than that.

With her experiences, she is able to help students coming from a young earth background to cope with the shock when they realize that mainstream science is true and what their parents told them about science is false [27]:

I think that parents need to tell their kids that there are a lot of REASONS scientists say what they do, and virtually NONE of those reasons are to disprove God’s existence. That doesn’t enter in. I’ve had lots of students come into my office in tears over the years, saying, “I don’t understand…”

She has been dismayed by how young earth creationists have misused her results:

One thing that does bother me, though, is that young earth creationists take my research and use it for their own message, and I think they are misleading people about it. Pastors and evangelists, who are in a position of leadership, are doubly responsible for checking facts and getting things right, but they have misquoted me and misrepresented the data. They’re looking at this research in terms of a false dichotomy [science versus faith] and that doesn’t do anybody any favors. [27]

She’s horrified that some Christians accuse her of hiding the true meaning of her data. “They treat you really bad,” she says. “They twist your words and they manipulate your data.” [26]

Sometimes she can graciously negotiate differences of opinion [27]:

One time I was visiting a church and the pastor got up and started preaching a sermon about people not being related to apes, and he started talking about this scientist in Montana who discovered red blood cells in dinosaur bones—he didn’t know I was in the audience—and it was my research he was talking about! Unfortunately, he got everything wrong. I just got up and left…

One of the churches I go to is very conservative—But the pastor and I have discussed what I do, and we have agreed to disagree on some things. I think that’s the appropriate attitude to have—after all, God is the only one who knows for sure—he is the only one who was there.

But sometimes it gets personal and ugly:

It’s also hard because, being a Christian evolutionary biologist, I receive a lot of mail that is not fun—fellow Christians suspect my faith, and scientific colleagues suspect my science. But I have no agenda, except to produce data… I’ve gotten a lot of pretty cruel, harsh, judgmental emails over the years—and if you’re a Christian saying things like that, it’s no wonder my colleagues don’t want anything to do with faith. Christianity is about love, and these are not really loving responses to anything. [27]

To Mary Schweitzer, young earth creationism  errs theologically as well as scientifically:

Science and religion represent two different ways of looking at the world; invoking the hand of God to explain natural phenomena breaks the rules of science. After all, she says, what God asks is faith, not evidence. “If you have all this evidence and proof positive that God exists, you don’t need faith. I think he kind of designed it so that we’d never be able to prove his existence. And I think that’s really cool.” [26]

As she continues to study the complexities of God’s world with this perspective, her faith is not threatened, but rather is deepened:

I don’t feel that I’m discrediting God with the work I’m doing, I think I am honoring him with the abilities he’s given me…. The more I understand how things work, the bigger God gets. When he was just a magician pulling things out of a hat, that doesn’t even compare to how I see him now! [27]


The work by Mary Schweitzer and her colleagues has shown that at least some of the flexible tissues from deep within the dinosaur bones she examined is original organic material, not merely recent biofilm. However, these tissues have been significantly stabilized by cross-linking in the course of aging. While there is evidence for some heme units (heme is a stable portion of hemoglobin), there are no actual red blood cells.

For other fossil dinosaur samples, it is possible that the flexible material found in them is recent bacterial biofilm, not original organic molecules. Thomas Kaye presented convincing evidence that some of the flexible material he extracted from fossil dinosaur or turtle remains was biofilm. He also found that little red objects which initially looked like red blood cells in blood vessels were actually microclusters of iron oxide.

Some possible factors in preserving original organic matter in dinosaur bones are rapid initial drying of the carcass; hermetic sealing and intimate contact with a mineral surface within tiny bone pores; and cross-linking catalyzed by iron. A controlled laboratory experiment showed dramatic preservation of blood vessels in the presence of a high concentration of extracted hemoglobin.

The rate of decomposition of organic matter in buried corpses was shown to vary wildly. Many factors remain poorly understood, and so statements like “Original organic tissues cannot possibly endure for 70 million years” are insupportable. We simply do not know. In contrast, the physics of dating rock layers (including the layers in which these dinosaur bones were found) is well-understood and reproducible.

That scientists are unable at present to give a complete account of the mechanism and trajectory of the preservation of modified proteins in the dinosaur bone pores is not some unique, embarrassing case. This situation arises constantly in the course of scientific discovery. At the leading edge of most fields of physical science are always some observations which cannot currently be completely accounted for, and which call for further investigation. That is precisely how science advances. For instance, in 1896 when uranium compounds were found to cause exposure of photographic plates wrapped in black paper, there was no mechanistic explanation. Scientists did not throw up their hands and say, “We can’t explain this, so modern science is worthless!” No, they kept making observations, and kept learning more, and eventually realized that the nuclei of atoms were emitting radiation that could penetrate black paper.

Again and again young earth creationists have pointed to some observations such as bent rock layers, polystrate fossils, the amount of salt in the ocean, apparent mingled human and dinosaur footprints, the amount of helium in the atmosphere, polonium halos, or fluctuations in the earth’s magnetic field, and claimed that since conventional (old-earth) science could not explain these observations, the earth must be young. But when genuine science is brought to bear on these issues, they are eventually readily explained within the framework of an old earth and accepted physics. It may take some years, however, to come to a satisfactory resolution.  A number of these supposed evidences for a young earth are exposed here .

The absence of long, sequenceable chains of DNA in any dinosaur fossils indicates that these fossils are much older than the 6000-4500 year age allowable in young earth creationism. The traces of DNA fragments in Schweitzer’s fossils matched more closely to modern birds than to modern reptiles. The same held true for sequences of proteins. These trends conform to evolutionary expectations, since most biologists hold that today’s birds are direct descendants of dinosaurs, whereas today’s alligators are more distant cousins.

Mary Schweitzer is a dedicated evangelical Christian, who has born with grace the attacks on her character and the misrepresentation of her work by young earth creationists.

ADDENDUM:  The transcript of a July, 2016 interview with Mary Schweitzer, retracing how she got started in paleontology and how it affected her faith, is here. She notes that she initially audited a class in paleontology because she was (at that time) a young earth creationist and planned to show the professor that his evolutionary views were wrong. That experience of coming to terms with the scientific data while maintaining the essentials of her Christian faith has prepared her to help students at her university who are dealing with the same issue:

I’ve actually had students in my office struggling with this same thing, saying, “I think I’m going to have to throw away my faith.” You know, as Christians, as parents, we do our students a huge disservice if we don’t prepare them to see the scientific data someday — on a whole range of things. We need to help them hang onto their faith and to understand why scientists are saying what they’re saying and that their faith is not incongruent with science. To me it is so exciting to see God revealed through science.


Doing carbon 14 dating on dinosaur fossils often gives dates of 20,000-40,000 years old, and trying to carbon date things like graphite and diamond often gives dates of around 50,000 years old. That is exactly what we expect when a dating method is pushed to its limits and beyond. The amount of C14 in the (modern) atmosphere is only about one C14 in a trillion other carbons. For older samples, the remaining amount of C14 declines and declines until at around 50,000 years old it is less than one C14 in 300 trillion other carbon atoms, which is about the practical limit of accurate detectability with existing instrumentation.

Part of the “practical limit” caveat is that the air, the water, and the ground are swimming in modern levels of C14, and it takes only the merest bit of modern contamination to make something made of solid carbon (e.g. graphite or diamond) that is a million years old look like it is 50,000 years old. And it only takes a little more modern C14 contamination to cause a semi-porous dinosaur fossil which is not solid carbon and which for thousands of years has been in contact with water laden with modern carbonate ions and organic compounds to return a date of 20,000-40,000 years. (Folks try to remove modern contaminants, but you can’t get them all).

So there are known, intrinsic problems with trying to date really old things (especially things buried in the ground) with C14. The carbon dating method is working with vanishingly small amounts of C14, contamination with modern carbon is unavoidable, and the effects of that contamination become dominant for more ancient samples. We are essentially guaranteed to come up with an apparent “date” of 15,000-60,000 years, no matter how much older the sample actually is. That is the simple physical reality of carbon dating, which young earth creationists do not want to admit. Instead, they claim that these apparent dates demonstrate that these samples cannot be millions of years old. This is just another falsehood.

In contrast, radioactive dating of the rock layers (e.g. Hell Creek formation in Montana, using Rb-Sr or U-Pb dating) where many dino fossils are found does not suffer from these problems. (a ) There are reasonably high concentrations of the parent and daughter elements to work with, and (b) there is little chance of contamination from the environment. For instance, the air and water around us is not chock-full of Rb or Sr or U or Pb , and so there is not much of a chance that adventitious Rb or Sr or U or Pb will penetrate into the minerals that contain these elements enough to alter the radiogenic dates. (Not to say this cannot possibly happen, but it is extremely unlikely; the fact that different dating methods nearly always give the same date for a given rock show that they are reliable). Ar is present at appreciable concentration (1%) in the atmosphere, but the Ar39/Ar40 method can detect whether atmospheric contamination has taken place.

Furthermore, the old dates from radioactive dating of rocks are supported by many other physical observations such as lake varves, annual layers in glacier ice cores, the positions and current movements of the earth’s crustal plates, rock formations like unconformities, etc. etc. (see https://letterstocreationists.wordpress.com/2014/09/07/some-simple-evidences-for-an-old-earth/ )

So – – we have one dating method with known, unavoidable problems for dating really old things, giving results which are at variance with a whole battery of other methods which are good at dating really old things. This is why practicing scientists do not regard the C14 results on dinosaur fossils as indicative of their actual dates.


See README for a description of other research articles on this blog


[1] Thomas, B. 2009. Dinosaur Soft Tissue Issue Is Here to Stay. Acts & Facts. 38 (9): 18  http://www.icr.org/article/4827

[2] M. H. Schweitzer, “Blood from Stone”, Scientific American, December, 2010, pg. 62. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/blood-from-stone/

[3]   Mary Schweitzer and Tracy Staedter, “The Real Jurassic Park,” Earth (June 1997): 55–57 , as cited by Reasons to Believe in: http://www.reasons.org/articles/dinosaur-blood

[4] Mary Higby Schweitzer, John R. Horner Annales de Paléontologie, Volume 85, Issue 3, Pages 179-192 (1999)            http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0753396999800135    (abstract only)

[5] Hai-Lin Wang, Zi-Ying Yan, and Dong-Yan Jin , Reanalysis of Published DNA Sequence Amplified from Cretaceous Dinosaur Egg Fossil, Mol Biol Evol (1997)   14  (5):  589-591.  http://mbe.oxfordjournals.org/content/14/5/589.full.pdf+html

[6] : Schweitzer, et al., “Soft-Tissue Vessels and Cellular Preservation in Tyrannosaurus rex”, Science, 307 (2005) 1952. http://www.rpgroup.caltech.edu/~natsirt/stuff/Schweitzer%20Science%202005.pdf

[7] Mary Higby Schweitzer,  Zhiyong Suo,  Recep Avci, , John M. Asara,  Mark A. Allen, Fernando Teran Arce,  John R. Horner. “Analyses of Soft Tissue from Tyrannosaurus rex Suggest the Presence of Protein”, Science 13 April 2007:  Vol. 316  no. 5822  pp. 277-280.    http://www.sciencemag.org/content/316/5822/277.abstract

[8] John M. Asara,  Mary H. Schweitzer,  Lisa M. Freimark,  Matthew Phillips, Lewis C. Cantley, “Protein Sequences from Mastodon and Tyrannosaurus Rex Revealed by Mass Spectrometry”, Science 13 April 2007: Vol. 316  no. 5822  pp. 280-285  http://www.sciencemag.org/content/316/5822/280.short and http://www-nmr.cabm.rutgers.edu/academics/biochem694/reading/Asara_etal_2007.pdf

[9] Kaye, et al., “Dinosaurian Soft Tissues Interpreted as Bacterial Biofilms”, PLoS ONE 3(7): e2808  http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0002808

[10] Schweitzer, et al., “Biomolecular Characterization and Protein Sequences of the Campanian Hadrosaur B. Canadensis”,   Science 1 May 2009:  Vol. 324  no. 5927  pp. 626-631 http://www.sciencemag.org/content/324/5927/626.abstract

(Here is an accessible summary of this Science 2009 article:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/04/090430144528.htm )

[11] Schweitzer, et al., Proc. R. Soc. B (2005) 272, 775–784 . http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/royprsb/272/1565/775.full.pdf

[12] Mary Higby Schweitzer, “Soft Tissue Preservation in Terrestrial Mesozoic Vertebrates”, Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences Vol. 39: 187-216 (May 2011) http://www.annualreviews.org/doi/abs/10.1146/annurev-earth-040610-133502

[13] Theagarten Lingham-Soliara and  Joanna Glabb,” Dehydration: A mechanism for the preservation of fine detail in fossilised soft tissue of ancient terrestrial animals”, Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, Volume 291, Issues 3–4, 15 May 2010, Pages 481–487 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0031018210001471

[14] James D. San Antonio,  Mary H. Schweitzer,  Shane T. Jensen,  Raghu Kalluri,  Michael Buckley,  Joseph P. R. O. Orgel. “Dinosaur Peptides Suggest Mechanisms of Protein Survival”, PLoS One 6, no. 6 (2011): e20381 http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0020381

[15] Fazale Rana , “Structure of Dinosaur Collagen Unravels the Case for a Young Earth”, Reasons to Believe, August 10, 2011.  http://www.reasons.org/articles/structure-of-dinosaur-collagen-unravels-the-case-for-a-young-earth

[16] M. J. Collins, C. M. Nielsen-Marsh, J. Hiller, C. I. Smith And J. P. Roberts, “The Survival Of Organic Matter In Bone: A Review”, Archaeometry 44, 3 (2002) 383–39  http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1475-4754.t01-1-00071/pdf

[17] Peterson JE, Lenczewski ME, Scherer RP (2010) “Influence of Microbial Biofilms on the Preservation of Primary Soft Tissue in Fossil and Extant Archosaurs”. PLoS ONE 5(10): e13334.   http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0013334

[18] Mary Higby Schweitzer, Wenxia Zheng, Timothy P. Cleland, Marshall Bern. “Molecular analyses of dinosaur osteocytes support the presence of endogenous molecules”. Bone   Volume 52, Issue 1, January 2013, Pages 414–423. http://www4.ncsu.edu/~lezanno/Research_files/SchweitzerEtAl2012.pdf 

[19] Morten E. Allentoft, et al.,”The half-life of DNA in bone: measuring decay kinetics in 158 dated fossils”. Proc. R. Soc. B (2012) 279, 4724–4733 .   http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/279/1748/4724

[20]  Matthias Meyer, et al., “A mitochondrial genome sequence of a hominin from Sima de los Huesos”,  Nature  505, 403–406 . http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v505/n7483/full/nature12788.html

[21]  Schweitzer MH, Zheng W, Cleland TP, Goodwin MB, Boatman E, Theil E, Marcus MA, Fakra SC. “A role for iron and oxygen chemistry in preserving soft tissues, cells and molecules from deep time”, Proc. R. Soc. B 281: 20132741. http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/royprsb/281/1775/20132741.full.pdf

[22]    Elizabeth M. Boatman, Mark B. Goodwin, Hoi-Ying Holman, Sirine Fakra, Mary H. Schweitzer, Ronald Gronsky and John R. Horner, “Synchrotron Chemical and Structural Analysis of Tyrannosaurus rex Blood Vessels:The Contribution of Collagen Hypercrosslinking to Tissue Longevity”, Microsc. Microanal. 20 (Suppl 3), 2014 http://infrared.als.lbl.gov/Publications/2014/BGHFSGH14/1430.pdf

[23] “Are Birds Really Dinosaurs?”, The University of California Museum of Paleontology. http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/diapsids/avians.html

[24] Lee, A. H. and Werning, S. “Sexual maturity in growing dinosaurs does not fit reptilian growth models.” 2007. PNAS 105:2:582-587 http://www.pnas.org/content/105/2/582.full?sid=1a6b4941-c23f-46db-9eda-07ba2b73de0f

[25] “Medullary Bone and the Dinosaur-Bird Link”, https://dinosours.wordpress.com/2012/01/20/medullary-bone-and-the-dinosaur-bird-link/

[26] Helen Fields, “Dinosaur Shocker”. Smithsonian Magazine, May 2006 http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/dinosaur.html?c=y&page=3

[27] Emily Ruppel, “Not So Dry Bones: An interview with Mary Schweitzer”. July 21, 2014. http://biologos.org/blog/not-so-dry-bones-an-interview-with-mary-Schweitzer

[28] Evan Ratliff  , “Origin of Species: How a T. Rex Femur Sparked a Scientific Smackdown”,WIRED MAGAZINE: 17.07   http://archive.wired.com/medtech/genetics/magazine/17-07/ff_originofspecies?currentPage=all

[29] Laura Geggel, ” Is It Possible to Clone a Dinosaur?” LiveScience  April 28, 2016 http://www.livescience.com/54574-can-we-clone-dinosaurs.html

[30] Further notes on the dating of the tektites and Z-coal just above the Hell Creek formation:

The table of datings for the Z-coal was taken from Table 2 of the article “Radiometric Dating Does Work!” by G. Brent Dalrymple of the U.S. Geological Survey, in RNCSE 20 (3): 14-19, 2000. The link to this article is given in the article, https://ncse.com/library-resource/radiometric-dating-does-work.

Here is Dalrymple’s commentary in that article on these Hell Creek formation samples, and also on tektites found in Haiti:

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

In addition to shocked quartz grains and high concentrations of iridium, the K-T impact produced tektites, which are small glass spherules that form from rock that is instantaneously melted by a large impact. The KT tektites were ejected into the atmosphere and deposited some distance away. Tektites are easily recognizable and form in no other way, so the discovery of a sedimentary bed (the Beloc Formation) in Haiti

that contained tektites and that, from fossil evidence, coincided with the K-T boundary provided an obvious candidate for dating. Scientists from the US Geological Survey were the first to obtain radiometric ages for the tektites and laboratories in Berkeley, Stanford, Canada, and France soon followed suit. The results from all of the laboratories were remarkably consistent with the measured ages ranging only from 64.4 to 65.1 Ma

(Table 2). Similar tektites were also found in Mexico, and the Berkeley lab found that they were the same age as the Haiti tektites. But the story doesn’t end there.

The K-T boundary is recorded in numerous sedimentary beds around the world. The Z-coal, the Ferris coal, and the Nevis coal in Montana and Saskatchewan all occur immediately above the K-T boundary. Numerous thin beds of volcanic ash occur within these coals just centimeters above the K-T boundary, and some of these ash beds contain minerals that can be dated radiometrically. Ash beds from each of these coals have been dated by 40Ar/39Ar, K-Ar, Rb-Sr, and U-Pb methods in several laboratories in the US and Canada. Since both the ash beds and the tektites occur either at or very near the K-T boundary, as determined by diagnostic fossils, the tektites and the ash beds should be very nearly the same age, and they are (Table 2).

There are several important things to note about these results. First, the Cretaceous and Tertiary periods were defined by geologists in the early 1800s. The boundary between these periods (the K-T boundary) is marked by an abrupt change in fossils found in sedimentary rocks worldwide. Its exact location in the stratigraphic column at any locality has nothing to do with radiometric dating — it is located by careful study of the

fossils and the rocks that contain them, and nothing more. Second, the radiometric age measurements, 187 of them, were made on 3 different minerals and on glass by 3 distinctly different dating methods (K-Ar and 40Ar/39Ar are technical variations that use the same parent-daughter decay scheme), each involving different elements with different half-lives. Furthermore, the dating was done in 6 different laboratories and the materials were collected from 5 different locations in the Western Hemisphere. And yet the results are the same within analytical error. If radiometric dating didn’t work then such beautifully consistent results would not be possible.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Since this 2000 article by Dalrymple is short and written for the layman, it mentions the numbers of measurements and the laboratories which made these measurements, but does not always include the specific references for every data point. However, it is possible to find most of these references on the internet.

For instance, the data in the first row of our table (sanidine, 28 measurements, averaging 64.8 million years) come from his 1993 publication: “40Ar/39Ar age spectra and total-fusion ages of tektites from Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary sedimentary rocks in the Beloc Formation, Haiti“, U. S. Geological Survey Bulletin 2065, by G. Brent Dalrymple, G.A. Izett, L.W. Snee, and J.D. Obradovich.

The link for this publication is https://pubs.er.usgs.gov/publication/b2065 . From that link, the full report can be downloaded. It contains reams of numbers on multiple, replicate measurements on tektites from Haiti and also on sanidine crystals isolated from bentonite layers in the Hell Creek Z-coal. Here is a histogram of the dates from all these measurements:


Some 28 independent measurements were made for the Z-coal, and the results show a reasonably tight distribution between about 64 and 66 million years ago, averaging to 64.8 Ma. For the Haitian tektites (a completely different mineral), 52 measurements are shown. These dates group between about 63 and 66 million years ago.

This 1993 Dalrymple USGS report also gives references for the K-Ar, Rb-Sr, and U-Pb dating results shown in our table , e.g. H. Baadsgaard, J. F. Lerbeko, and I. McDougall, “A radiometric age for the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary based upon K-Ar, Rb-Sr, and U-Pb ages of bentonites from Alberta, Saskatchewan and Montana”. Canadian Journal of Earth Science, v. 25, p.1088-1097.

Another major study of sanidine dating from the Z-coal layers was by C.C. Swisher, L. Dingus, and R. F. Butler, “40Ar/39Ar dating and magnetostratigraphic correlation of the terrestrial Cretaceous–Paleogene boundary and Puercan Mammal Age, Hell Creek – Tullock formations, eastern Montana”, Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences, 1993, 30(9): 1981-1996 . The Z-coal dating here was 65.0 million years ago (datings for various sublevels of this coal group are also given).   This 1993 Swisher, et al. article references some eleven prior studies on Z-coal sanidine dating which yielded dates between 63.5 and 66.5 million years ago.

In 2013 Renne et al. revisited the dating of the Z-coal layers above the Hell Creek formation ( P. R. Renne, et al., “Time Scales of Critical Events Around the Cretaceous-Paleogene Boundary”. Science 08 Feb 2013: Vol. 339, pp. 684-687 ). They performed 40Ar/39Ar dating on sanidine from several parts of the Z-coal layers, and again measured an age of about 66 million years. They performed Ar/Ar measurements on K-T boundary layer tektites from Haiti, finding a date of 66 million years there also.

The supplementary material for the Renne, et al. article (www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/339/6120/684/DC1 ) also describes the dating of a set of zircons from the Z-coal layers, using the uranium/lead system. Again, a date of 66 million years was measured.

All this shows that multiple, independent measurements, made in different laboratories over the course of decades, give tight, consistent answers for the date of the rock layers immediately above the Hell Creek formation. This is strong confirmation that this date is reliable, and shows there was no arbitrary “cherry picking” of the data here to obtain harmonious results.

[31] Beatrice Demarchi, et al., “Protein sequences bound to mineral surfaces persist into deep time”, eLife 2016;5:e17092 .   https://elifesciences.org/content/5/e17092

[32]    “Fibres and cellular structures preserved in 75-million–year-old dinosaur specimens”, Nature Communications 6, Article number: 7352 (2015)http://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms8352

[33] https://answersingenesis.org/fossils/preserved-cretaceous-collagen-and-dinosaur-blood-common-clues-catastrophic-past/             “The extraordinarily small size of these cell-like structures should at least raise the possibility that they have been misidentified. Given their remarkably small size, we must at least hold open the possibility that they are not blood cells at all. ”

[34] http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-33067582

[35] https://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/jun/09/75-million-year-old-dinosaur-blood-and-collagen-discovered-in-fossil-fragments

[36] See the discussion on RATE claims by Randy Isaac here: http://www.asa3.org/ASA/education/origins/rate-ri.htm  with a response by RATE scientists, and Randy’s response, here: http://www.asa3.org/ASA/education/origins/rate-pscf.htm

COPYRIGHT  SCOTT BUCHANAN  2015  Permission is granted for reproduction for non-commercial use of this text as long as the contents are not altered and attribution is given. The figures are attributed separately.


47 Responses to Dinosaur Soft Tissue

  1. Pingback: Soft Tissue Found in Dinosaur Bones | Letters to Creationists

  2. Pingback: Evidences for a Young Earth | Letters to Creationists

  3. Dennis Swift says:

    I am a creationist and charismatic.Have artifacts from tombs in Peru from 500 BC to 1500 Ad. that show dinosaursHave the longest running best attended conference on creation in the world.

  4. Dave says:

    Thank you for your treatment of this subject. I am hoping that the fact that you are an evangelical Christian will make YECs who come across your posts take pause. I am always dismayed when I come across someone who refuses to recognize scientific fact because their religion does not permit it. I wanted to point out that the YouTube link you have seems to be dead now, but that this one works:

    • Dave,

      Yes, my hope is that some minds will change. I think that is a gradual process. I have never had a comment here from a YE creationist stating that some article on this blog made them see the light, but I know in my case it was not reading any single pro-science article or book that pried me away from YE creationism.

      Thanks for the new link. We’ll see how long it lasts before CBS gets this new link taken down like it did the previous one 🙂
      Best regards…

      • Jim Thinnsen says:

        Hello Scott

        God sometimes has to spank us when we go astray, and sadly you have gone VERY astray Scott.. I pray that you have a “Road to Damascus” moment before it is too late.. As a Brother I care for you.

        Why must you continue to promote Darwin’s Lie of evolution against the Truth of the Bible?

        HERE are 2 pieces of Corroborating HARD DATA that confirm what is written in Genesis and God DID INDEED create Large Reptiles (Called “Dinosaurs for 200 years ago) THE SAME WEEK that he created Man, JUST LIKE THE BIBLE CLEARLY SAYS).. why must you allow Satans Greatest Lie of Evolution to blind you? You claim that those are NOT red blood cells that were found? This article says something very different..

        Maybe we should trust God about HIS creation as HE was there and NOT Man


        You claim that Carbon 14 Data is reliable.. How about now, that it shows the Bible is true?
        Does that bother you? Does that suddenly mean carbon 14 is NOT reliable? Why cant we just get ONE test of Dino remnants with ZERO measureable carbon 14? That would prove more than 50-100K Years old and end the story of Genesis once and for all..That appears what you would like to happen, but Alas, The Data aren’t cooperating are they..


        I have read many of your articles yet, you have provided ZERO evidence to support Darwinian Evolution that conforms to the Scientific Method ZERO… NONE… Why no science?? You give ZERO Empirical Scientific Evidence to support the Mindless MYO Mud to MAN Myth..

        Lenin coined a phrase for people who supported his cause of the Communist revolution while knowing full well that they were going to be the FIRST ones to face the firing squad.. He called them “Useful Idiots”,, Atheists know full well why Darwinian Evolution was made popular and why it must be protected at all cost IN SPITE OF all of the Evidence AGAINST IT..

        Atheists are Laughing at you while Christians Mourn for you and the damage you are doing to Gods kingdom..

        “Christianity has fought, still fights, and will fight science to the desperate end over evolution, because evolution destroys utterly and finally the very reason Jesus’ earthly life was supposedly made necessary. Destroy Adam and Eve and the original sin, and in the rubble you will find the sorry remains of the son of god. Take away the meaning of his death. If Jesus was not the redeemer that died for our sins, and this is what evolution means, then Christianity is nothing.” G. Richard Bozarth, “The Meaning of Evolution”, American Atheist,

        “Evolution is promoted by its practitioners as more than mere science. Evolution is promulgated as an ideology, as secular religion—a full-fledged alternative to Christianity, with meaning and morality. I am an ardent evolutionist and an ex-Christian, but I must admit that in this one complaint—and Mr. Gish is but one of many to make it—the literalists are absolutely right. Evolution is a religion. This was true of evolution in the beginning, and it is true of evolution still today” (Ruse).

        .“I am convinced that the battle for humankind’s future must be waged and won in the public school classroom by teachers who correctly perceive their role as the proselytizers of a new faith: a religion of humanity that recognizes and respects the spark of what theologians call divinity in every human being. These teachers must embody the same
        selfless dedication as the most rabid fundamentalist preachers, for they will be ministers of another sort, utilizing a classroom instead of a pulpit to convey humanist values in whatever subject they teach, regardless of the educational level-preschool day care or large state university. The classroom must and will become an arena of conflict between
        the old and the new-the rotting corpse of Christianity, together with all its adjacent evils and misery, and the new faith of humanism.” John Dunphy, A Religion for a New Age, Humanist

        The day will come when the evidence constantly accumulating around the evolutionary theory becomes so massively persuasive that even the last and most fundamental Christian warriors will have to lay down their arms and surrender unconditionally. I believe that day will be the end of Christianity.” G. Richard Bozarth, “The Meaning of Evolution”, American Atheist

        “Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled Atheist”
        Richard Dawkins

      • Jim,
        ( a ) The Smithsonian “Dinosaur Shocker” article is from 2006. My article here already covered this. It treats Mary Schweitzer’s work, and she clearly stated that even though the little red things visible in the vessels looked like red blood cells, upon closer examination she found they were NOT blood cells. Similarly, the little red things in the photos by Thomas Kaye look like red blood cells, but he showed they were not.

        ( b ) The Guardian article is based on this Nature Communications article, http://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms8352 . If you read the article itself instead of The Guardian’s sensationalism, you would find that no actual red blood cells were found. Some protein remnants have been preserved, which we already knew about from Mary Schweitzer’s work. Nevertheless, it is an interesting study, which I will add to my article here in the near future, so I appreciate your bringing it to my attention.

        ( c ) I covered the C14 issue already in the appendix to the main article above, and I specifically responded to a comment of yours on this topic just last month. So you already know perfectly well that there are limits to what the C14 method can reliably date. You know perfectly well that the amount of C14 left in anything that is more than about 50,000 years old is so low that it cannot be reliably distinguished from zero C14, with today’s instrumentation. This means that anything that is full of concentrated, pristine carbon which is any age over 50,000 years old (e.g. 5 million or 500 million) is likely to be measured as around 50,000 years, regardless of how old it actually is. And you know perfectly well that something porous which has been buried in the ground like a dinosaur bone will be heavily contaminated with modern carbon, which is impossible to totally remove – and so it will likely give a carbon date of 20,000-30,000 years old, even if it is millions of years old. And so you are simply being dishonest to bring this up yet again and claim that these 20,000-30,000 year dates have any real bearing on the actual age of the dinosaur fossils.

        So, as always, the evidence you keep trying to adduce against evolution completely fails.

        ( d ) Evidence: I have provided plenty of positive evidence for evolution, e.g. in the fossil record [ https://letterstocreationists.wordpress.com/2014/04/02/realistic-expectations-for-transitional-fossils/ ] and in the genome [ https://letterstocreationists.wordpress.com/2015/11/07/endogenous-retroviruses-in-your-genome-show-common-ancestry-with-primates/ ] but you just don’t want to acknowledge it.

        ( e ) Those same atheists who claim that evolution supports atheism claim that physics and geology likewise support atheism. Richard Dawkins wrote : “The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.” If you are going to believe the atheists on evolution and religion, you might as well accept their teachings on physics as well, and give up your faith. Or…. maybe these guys should not be regarded as reliable authorities on the relation of science and faith. If they are enemies of Christianity, of course they will claim that evolution etc. discredits the faith.

        Instead of relying on atheists for your theology, why not listen to devout, respected Christians like Billy Graham, C. S. Lewis, Francis Collins, and Pope John Paul II, who, along with hundreds of millions of other Christians, do not see evolution as a threat ?
        ” The Bible is not a book of science. The Bible is a book of Redemption, and of course I accept the Creation story. I believe that God did create the universe. I believe that God created man, and whether it came by an evolutionary process and at a certain point He took this person or being and made him a living soul or not, does not change the fact that God did create man. … whichever way God did it makes no difference as to what man is and man’s relationship to God ” – – Billy Graham

        ( f ) The only reason atheists get any traction with evolution vs. faith is because Christians like you confuse your ignorance-driven interpretation of the Bible with the Bible itself. Indeed, “Atheists are Laughing at you while Christians mourn for you and the damage you are doing to God’s kingdom”. Long ago, St. Augustine described how pushing a Bible interpretation which is contrary to the physical facts makes Christianity look ridiculous and is a hindrance to outsiders coming to faith :

        “ Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the Earth, the Heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn.

        “ The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of the faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason?” – St. Augustine, The Literal Meaning of Genesis (408 A.D) Book 1, ch.19.

        ( g ) All that said, I appreciate your concern for my soul.

  5. Pingback: Chemostratigraphy shows the geologic column is no flood deposit « The League of Reason Blog

  6. Ashley Simpson says:

    This explanation is all very well and good, but it hinges on the fact that all of the structures found in the dinosaur were of a more stable structure. So, taking from one of your points, you cited an example where biofilm accounted for the apparent soft structures, and you also cited the shape of iron-shell remnants being responsible for what appeared to be preserved cells, possibly blood cells. You concluded (Without reference) that there were no red blood cells, only iron structures. However:

    -Mary Schweitzer very adamantly made the point that, based on all the tests they ran, the soft tissue, and cellular-like structures were not caused by biofilm, or intristic. Although this was widely contested, it was eventually proven to be true. And upon further testing, the apparent presence of nuclei were found. Furthermore, the apparent soft tissue-like structures were found to belong to the dinosaur bones in question, hadn’t undergone fossilization (Which is another good indicator of age), and contained (Importantly) soft organic structures. And not to be the bearer of bad news, but Mary Schweitzer has infact conducted tests which were designed to strip away the iron from the soft tissues, apparent vessels and other organic structures in question, IN order to ascertain if there is any intact cells, and surprise, after iron was stripped away there were the (apparent) nuclei. Furthermore, they found what appeared to remnants of actual DNA.

    Your presentation of Mary Schweitzer’s data (without all of the facts and research conducted) and conclusion was almost precisely the opposite of the conclusions her team reached. All i’m saying is, the actual evidence you presented from Mary Schweitzer, made the conclusion that we are more then likely looking at cells, nuclei, dna and exceptionally intact tissue. Not more than likely iron structures and durable structures. I find this an interesting read and all I can honestly say is nothing yet has been conclusive, but the burden of evidence does lean more towards the young-earth creationist arguments. It’s why their hijacking her research.

    I also find your presentation of arguments creationists use unjust. For example, the test Mary conducted, utilizing an iron-rich solution which was in order to demonstrate a possible mechanic by which organic matter can be preserved was completely unrealistic, for the following reasons:

    – The iron rich solution was several hundred times higher than anything found in the body of a decaying animal. Not only this but Iron is a worse preservative than formaldehyde, one of the chemicals ancient Egyptians and modern day embalmers used to embalm their dead and preserve organs and (Here’s the kicker) blood! Even so, utilizing some of the most advanced methods of preservation known, the organs broke down after roughly 4,000 years.
    -The test did not simulate any real-world environmental conditions, not even close to what the bones were subjected to.
    -Finally, even if we were to assume a perfect preservation scenario: Immersing the entire creature upon death in a solution of formaldehyde, place it in a sealed cask, and storing it at 0 degrees celsius, the most generous estimates place the total organic breakdown at 7 million years, not 70 million or 200 million years.

    There are some very strong arguments from the creationist side, is all i’m saying…

    • Ashley,
      You have made some thoughtful observations here. You noted:

      “Mary Schweitzer very adamantly made the point that, based on all the tests they ran, the soft tissue, and cellular-like structures were not caused by biofilm, or intristic. Although this was widely contested, it was eventually proven to be true. And upon further testing, the apparent presence of nuclei were found. Furthermore, the apparent soft tissue-like structures were found to belong to the dinosaur bones in question, hadn’t undergone fossilization (Which is another good indicator of age), and contained (Importantly) soft organic structures. “

      All of this is true, and all is so stated in my article here. Yes to flexible tissue and cellular-like structures and some sequences of what seem to be original dino protein.

      You also wrote: “You concluded (Without reference) that there were no red blood cells, only iron structures.” Here I think you are missing the scanning electron microscopy (SEM) work by Thomas Kaye which I described. As noted above, he subjected some dino bones to the same procedures as Schweitzer, and got similar-looking flexible, transparent branching vessels with little red dots in them about the size of red blood cells. You can compare Kaye’s figure with the caption “Branching, transparent tube-like structures…” with the photo from Schweitzer with the caption “Higher magnification of dinosaur vessels shows branching pattern (arrows) and round, red microstructures…”. By optical microscopy, these do look a lot like red blood cells. But Kaye zoomed in with SEM to find that these are actually inorganic iron oxide balls. Schweitzer has never disputed that particular finding of Kaye’s, although she vigorously and successfully defended against his “just a biofilm” proposal. If her red dots were more cell-like, she certainly would have shown countervailing SEM images to demonstrate that, but she has not.

      She herself had backed away from claiming these as actual red cells. I noted:
      “ Just to be clear, her assessment of these objects was that they were not actual red blood cells (e.g. with cell walls or other cellular structures), but rather some chemically transformed remnants of the dinosaur blood [4]:
      Clearly these structures are not functional cells. However, one possibility is that they represent diagenetic alteration of original blood remnants, such as complexes of hemoglobin breakdown products, a possibility supported by other data that demonstrate that organic components remain in these dinosaur tissues. “

      So there is no reason to think these were actual red blood cells. Rather they are at best products of “diagenetic alteration of original blood remnants”. If the YE creationists are arguing for red blood cells, they are incorrect. All the evidence shows that indeed, “all of the structures found in the dinosaur were of a more stable structure.”

      As for the hemoglobin preservation test with blood, she never claimed that these were a perfect replication of the dino bone interior conditions. Scientists typically try to run idealized tests, with everything held constant except one variable. Then you can make conclusions about the impact of that one variable. Her test showed dramatically that hemoglobin could act as a preservative, as could other forms of iron. That is only one piece of the explanation. She listed a number of other factors in preservation, as I discussed.

      It is clear that biological degradation processes are not thoroughly understood (as discussed). Trying to extrapolate from accelerated degradation tests in the lab glassware to a very different environment in the field is fraught with uncertainty. Therefore, it is not reasonable to claim that the degree of preservation in the dino bone tissue is impossible over a 70 million year span. We just don’t know enough to make that claim. There is more to learn. That is why we scientists have jobs 🙂

      The physics of radioactive dating are very clearly testable and understood. It makes no sense, then, to doubt the great age of this dino bones, just because we cannot fully explain the tissue preservation.

      Best wishes…

      • Brian Haigood says:

        “It makes no sense, then, to doubt the great age of this dino bones, just because we cannot fully explain the tissue preservation”
        I prefer to look at this a bit different. Let’s not constrain ourselves to old theories, BUT instead, let’s look at whats there(the tissue) and discover it for what it is.
        When we put any preconceived notions on the table we limit our capacity to truly understand what is in front of us. Just my two cents. 🙂

  7. Denis Nedry says:

    This is a very thorough analysis but I do not believe iron or any other known process can preserve tissue for 65 plus million years let alone in the conditions they were and are still being found. My beliefs are supportable and it appears the burden of proof is on your side. Especially with your comment that you “just don’t know” how it occurs. When something comes up that doesn’t fit the data you are responsible for an explanation and iron is not acceptable. Just so stories is not science.

    This website is very strange to me in that it seems to ignore almost every single controversial Christian doctrine. It’s have your cake and eat it too. Jesus said in this world we will have troubles. That means the world will reject you for your faith, as Christ was rejected. Jesus was not for people pleaders. Science seems to be God here, which by all biblical accounts is an idol. If you believe Jesus died for your sins on the cross but then say sin and death has always existed then you are cancelling out the most important aspect of being saved. You do not need saved if you are not fallen. If God did not make a perfect creation then we could not have fallen and the whole basis of Christianity is gone. I believe God created perfection that can evolve to aid a fallen world. A perfect loving and merciful God created this world. I am not by any means questioning your salvation, but rather your resolve. Fight the good fight. Sorry for the off topic comment but I feel it is all connected.

    • Denis, I appreciate the point you are making here. “Jesus said in this world we will have troubles. That means the world will reject you for your faith, as Christ was rejected. Jesus was not for people pleaders. ” I heartily agree. Where we seem to disagree is what is included in “the faith”.

      Your statement ” You do not need saved if you are not fallen. If God did not make a perfect creation then we could not have fallen and the whole basis of Christianity is gone” is key to your discussion, but is incorrect.

      A literal Adam and a literal Fall are not at all essential to the gospel. Paul develops the universality of sin in Romans 1-3 with no mention of original sin. He moves from, “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness… although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him” (1:18-21) to “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (3:23) quite apart from Adam. In all the gospel proclamations to both Jews and Gentiles recorded in the Book of Acts, there is not a single reference to Adam’s sin. The Fall is never mentioned in the sayings of Jesus. On the contrary, Jesus directed people away from religious speculations or blaming others, and towards a consciousness of their own shortcomings and their personal need for mercy.

      Succinct statements of the essence of the Christian faith are found, e.g. in John 3:16, Act 2:14-40, and I Cor 15:3-8. Nothing about a fall from an idyllic creation is entailed.

      I have dealt with the theological implications of the Fall here: https://letterstocreationists.wordpress.com/2011/08/21/adam-the-fall-and-evolution-christianity-today-and-world-get-it-wrong/, along with why Paul wrote as he did in Romans 5 and I Cor 15 regarding Adam. I won’t rehash all those arguments here. That essay also deals with the “slippery slope” argument, by noting the fundamental differences between the Genesis story and the more or less eyewitness accounts of the New Testament events. Thus, rejecting a literal interpretation of Genesis 1-3 does not logically lead to denying a literal Resurrection.

      It is worth recalling that there was a time, not that long ago, when many Christians believed it was essential to the faith to hold to the literal, obvious meaning of Biblical passages such as Psalm 104:5 (“He set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved”), as well as I Chron. 16:30, Isa. 66:1, Eccl.1:5, and Josh. 10:13. According to Cardinal Roberto Bellarmine (1615), “…to affirm that the sun is really fixed in the center of the heavens and the earth revolves swiftly around the sun is a dangerous thing, not only irritating the theologians and philosophers, but injuring our holy faith and making the sacred scripture false.” It was “science” (which mainly boils down to finding regularities among physical observations) which eventually opened the minds of Christians that holding to a stationary earth was not the only faithful approach. I would not call this making science to be God. It is just being honest about the facts and the relations among them.
      Today’s young earth creationists feel just as strongly about holding to a literal interpretation of Genesis. I respect their intentions, but disagree with their view. I also accept that we aren’t going to change each others’ minds here. Best wishes…

      • Denis Nedry says:

        I believe it is essential to what God wants us to believe about him in order to live the way he wants us to. For example, I don’t have to good works to be saved but I do because it is what God wants from me. He made everything and gave me everything I have so I will obey to the best of my abilities. You do not have to believe in the Bible literally to be saved, but it has an affect on how you believe and worship (anything done for Gods glory). It shapes who you are as a Christian and what God wants you to get done while you are here.

        Jesus spoke of the OT as it was history. Mark 10:6 “But from the beginning of creation, God ‘made them male and female.’” You can take liberties with “from the beginning” but I don’t see personally how you can add ” from the beginning of the creation after millions of years of death and suffering and evolution, God…” He also spoke about Abel (Luke 11:50-51), Noah and flood (Matthew 24:38-39), Moses (John 3:14, John 6:32), Elijah (Luke 4:25-27), Jonah (Matthew 12:40-41), Lot (Luke 17:28-32), and Sodom and Gomorrah (Matthew 10:15). Furthermore, Jesus said that if you believed in Moses you would believe in me. Secular history does not acknowledge the biblical history of Moses or the miracles performed.

        Jesus does not speak about Adam but he did speak of Abel so you must assume he believed there was Adam and he believed in the Genesis account. It would make no sense to speak of Adam’s offspring without acknowledging that Adam existed. So, if Adam existed to Jesus clearly this was history to him. I read your link regarding Paul’s writings, and I don’t understand what you mean we did not inherit guilt from Adam. The point is that sin and death originated with Adam. If you want to argue that no one is inherently a sinner (I don’t think you do), I would not agree. If I was in Adam’s shoes I would have sinned because I have free will and choose to sin against God. I wish I did not but that’s why Jesus came. So either way we are sinner’s whether we inherited it or we chose it. If sin and death originated with Adam, and Jesus believed in Adam, there should not be millions of years of sin and death before sin and death originated. There are many objections to this including cell and bacteria death, etc. but this depends on your definition of perfect and what organism can fell pain and suffering.

        Regarding Psalms 104:5, Psalm 121 is titled, “The Righteous shall never be moved”. This uses the same Hebrew word for move and it clearly does not mean the man shall never move. It means he will not be shaken. These words were written in a time when the general public did not understand science so the words chosen were actually perfect to convey the message which can still be understood today. The Cardinal was wrong and they can be wrong along with all other Christians. We could definitely debate this without changing each others minds, but I still think it is worth debating and I am open to continue. If not I understand and thank you very much for responding to my comment with such detail as I’m sure there are others you must respond to. Thanks again and God bless.

      • Denis,
        I appreciate your gracious spirit of dialogue here, so I will try to respond to at least some of your questions. I can’t put a lot of time into it at the moment as I am attending some all day/all evening church meetings (topic: Cultivating Revival).

        I was a young earth creationist in college. I have told the story of my scientific journey to old-earth creationism here: https://letterstocreationists.wordpress.com/2013/11/09/evolution-and-faith-my-story-part-1/
        And my efforts to reconcile the findings from the physical world to my Christian faith here: https://letterstocreationists.wordpress.com/2013/11/28/evolution-and-faith-my-story-part-2/
        . I don’t claim to have the ideal synthesis here, so welcome further input which is true to the clearest facts from observations, and to the core teachings of Jesus and his apostles.

        Also , for the record, I am quite comfortable with miracles, both old and new – – see e.g. https://letterstocreationists.wordpress.com/2012/08/14/healing-of-nearly-deaf-boy-on-youtube/
        and further links at the end of that article. So I have no problem with the Old Testament history which includes miracles, such as the Exodus sage or the Elijah/Elisha cycle. My default view is to regard biblical statements as literally true unless there is some very strong reason to think otherwise. The fact that little or (according to skeptics) no trace of the Exodus events can be found in artifacts or inscriptions is not enough to convince me it did not happen. That is mere absence of evidence. The situation is different with the Genesis creation story, where there is a plethora of self-consistent evidence showing that it did not happen as stated (“evidence of absence”).

        It seems to me that there are a number of core propositions regarding Bible interpretation which must be settled, in order to think clearly about these matters. I haven’t tried putting this in this sort of logical form before, but here goes:
        Proposition 1. The physical universe is a God-given reality (as opposed to a deceptive illusion or an evil delusion).
        Proposition 2. Humans have a God-given capability to perceive this universe and to observe regularities in its functioning, and to apply this knowledge.
        Do you agree so far? More later…

  8. Ashley Simpson says:

    Thanks Denis, exactly what i was trying to say. Also, Scott, you mentioned: “Scientists typically try to run idealized tests, with everything held constant except one variable. Then you can make conclusions about the impact of that one variable. Her test showed dramatically that hemoglobin could act as a preservative, as could other forms of iron.”

    Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but degradation of genetic tissue is very well understood, and iron was already known to be a mild preservative. Your entirely disregarding the point creationist scientists are making, and myself. It is that this test in NO WAY scientifically proves or even REASONABLY suggests a mechanic by which the tissue could be preserved in its current form, for millions of years. It’s comparable to walking up to a mechanic and suggesting that if you use water as an engine lubricant all the components within the car will run smoother for longer, rather than utilizing an engine oil specifically designed to protect the parts against friction. Vis-a-vis my comparison of formaldehyde and its preservative potential versus that of iron, or hemoglobin. And on an additional note, Mary’s other points she made for iron being used as a preservation—formaldehyde has the same effects but with superior results. The point of Mary’s test was to try and prove a naturalistic mechanism for long-term preservation. If it was just for short-term, then what was the point? Under analysis, the test was a complete failure. Certainly for long-term preservation.

    As for your point regarding the physics of radioactive dating, I fully agree!
    Radioactive dating is very well understood and the mathematics behind it is solid. I’ve studied civil and environmental engineering at uni and actually did several courses in geology, in which we utilised the formulas to ascertain ages of rocks etc.

    We also learned that there had to be underlying assumptions in order to estimate data as well as interpret the results correctly. This is where I and creationists disagree with your ‘science’. The assumptions, known as historic science, are about making assumptions when the data is unknown. We can just as easily make assumptions around our worldview and get data which fits with a young-age Earth from radio-isometric dating, which has in fact been done! I can reference some brilliant articles on the point if you so do wish. They prove a valid point. Long-term radio-isometric dating is almost useless without more information.

    How about this? Let’s say I make assumptions with regards to the level of preservation of tissue and fossilization (a chief mechanic by which old-age scientists base their assumptions might I add) for radiometric dating tests.

    So, let me ask you, if the condition of the bone was indicative of the age, would it not be reasonable to re-conduct radio isometric dating on the [dinosaur] bone with new information, with new assumptions and then, tell me what is the age?

    It’s an important point.

    • Ashley,
      We have several different issues going here, so I will number things to help organize them.
      (1) re “degradation of genetic tissue is very well understood” – That is not correct. We know that tissue decays, and we can do short-term controlled experiments, but we also know that the rates of decay over long times can vary by orders of magnitude, as I showed with bog man example. That example also demonstrates that we keep learning more about tissue decay: the bog man was originally thought to be a recent corpse. Until the discovery of the bog people, no one thought it possible that faces could be preserved almost perfectly for over 2000 years in a swamp. And before then we did not understand the mechanism of how plain bog water could have such a dramatic effect. The reason we accepted the bog man is over 2000 years old is not because we knew the mechanism of preservation here, but because there was enough strong external evidence that the bog man was that old. And so it is with dino tissue.

      ( 2) About Mary’s hemoglobin experiments — As I noted to you earlier, “That is only one piece of the explanation. She listed a number of other factors in preservation, as I discussed.” Neither she nor I claimed that iron was the only or the main factor, so this should not be over-weighted.
      ( 3) What these experiments did show was again how there is more to learn about tissue preservation. Yes, iron was already known to be a mild preservative. However, knowing that untreated blood vessels decomposed in three days, would you have predicted that simply adding hemoglobin would have made these vessels last for two years or longer? Again, we continue to learn here.
      As an aside, I did not catch this earlier, but your comment earlier that “The iron rich solution was several hundred times higher than anything found in the body of a decaying animal” is not correct. As the article stated, “ This hemoglobin had been extracted from the red blood cells of chicken and ostrich blood, and then re-diluted to its original concentration in the avian blood.”

      ( 4) re radioactive dating – The key assumption here is that the laws of physics have not changed over the past thousands or millions of years. This assumption has been exhaustively checked and cross-checked, and found to hold. e.g. see https://letterstocreationists.wordpress.com/2014/09/07/some-simple-evidences-for-an-old-earth/ and links therein.
      The assumptions of radioactive dating have likewise been crosschecked over and over again. As one small example, in the article here are listed dates of the rock layer just above the dino bones, measured seven different ways (various samples, and various methods, some using isochron and some not). This shows that five different radioactive dating methods, applied to three different types of material, all gave the same dates, within a spread of only 4%.

      I have looked into a number of evidences for a young earth , and found them to be false, e.g. see https://letterstocreationists.wordpress.com/2014/09/07/some-simple-evidences-for-an-old-earth/ . To the extent that I have checked into the assumptions made by YE creationists for their alternate physics (e.g. much faster decay rates or much faster speed of light in the past), they have ended up being contradicted by fairly straightforward observations. I have put in enough due diligence here that I am not inclined to chase down the latest proffered young earth evidence.

      (5) So again, we have well-understood, well-tested and confirmed radioactive dating saying these bones are millions of years old. Against this we have poorly-understood long-term preservation mechanisms for some flexible tissues.
      I understand that YE creationists will simply not accept this, and will continue to discount the established radioactive dating, and to harp on the poorly-understood tissue preservation processes. But good science sides, at least provisionally, with the well-understood and heavily cross-checked evidence, and keeps working to better understand that which is more poorly understood.

    • Todd Lewis says:


      I wold love to see those articles!

  9. Denis Nedry says:


    • Hi Denis,
      Our church conference here has been a blessing. Much Bible teaching and testimonies which encouraged faith that God still heals. During a prayer time Thursday night, I prayed with a pastor who had travelled from another state. He had had a stroke five years ago which damaged a five-centimeter section of his brain towards the back, which governs the sense of balance. As a result, for the past five years he always felt slightly dizzy, and if he tilted his head to look upward, he would get completely dizzy. After the prayer time, his vertigo problem completely disappeared (and was still gone as of 24 hours later). He was one happy man. About fifty other people reported that they got similarly healed of some malady that night.

      Back to our business on Bible interpretation (following up previous comment here) – I’ll add a couple of more propositions. Some comments which clarify these propositions are appended to the end of this comment.

      Proposition 3. Biblical faith does not entail denying past or present physical reality.
      Proposition 4. Bible interpretation is always heavily and necessarily dependent on human reasoning, which draws on physical observation as well as abstract logic.

      Proposition 5. When discussing scientific matters, we are called to treat information about the physical world accurately, not distorting or suppressing evidence which happens to not fit our desires or opinions.

      Proposition 6. In human language usage, where the object is to communicate something other than physical facts, it can be permissible to make statements that are not physically true and to tell stories that never actually happened; these statements and stories are not necessarily deceptive or erroneous. Specifically with narratives presented in the Bible, to focus on whether a story actually happened can cause the reader to completely miss the point of the narrative.
      Proposition 7. The Bible is authoritative and inerrant with respect to the purpose for which it was sent. But we need to be rigorously biblical in affirming what that purpose is. The New Testament affirms the role of the Old Testament in foreshadowing to testify about Christ and his saving work, and providing practical guidance to equip Christians for good works. There is no verse stating that the Old Testament was likewise intended to teach geology or biology.

      Proposition 8. In order to decide whether a biblical statement about the natural world or natural history is literally true, it is appropriate to utilize observations and deductions from the physical world.

      An example of how this works in practice is the depiction in a number of passages, as noted earlier, of a stationary earth. You noted that the Hebrew word for “move” can have various meanings. I agree. So can the English word “move”. However, the literal, straightforward import of these verses is that the earth is stationary, and the sun moves past it. Galileo’s Catholic persecutors were not all stupid men. They surely heard the arguments made against a geocentric interpretation, but they concluded that the geocentric interpretation was the best. Because they were stuck on their literal interpretation of these texts, they did not engage fully and fairly with the scientific evidence that Galileo presented.

      John Calvin apparently also endorsed geocentricity, warning against those who say, “that the sun does not move and that it is the earth that moves.” [see http://www.ligonier.org/blog/luther-calvin-and-copernicus-reformed-approach-science-and-scripture/ ]. Even today, there are a number of fundamentalist Christian groups who insist that truly faithful Christians must hold to a literal, geocentric interpretation of these passages. They rebuke those who “compromise” with those godless scientists who claim that the earth moves [see https://www.uwgb.edu/dutchs/PSEUDOSC/Geocentrism.HTM ] . I respectfully suggest that the reason you are so comfortable taking a metaphorical interpretation of these passages is not because the text demands it, but because you have accepted the results of modern science showing that the earth that moves around the sun.

      As discussed here https://letterstocreationists.wordpress.com/2012/09/03/was-the-expanse-overhead-in-genesis-1-a-solid-dome/ , the literal, straightforward understanding of the “firmament” or “expanse” of Genesis 1 is that it is a solid dome which separates the liquid waters above it from the land and waters below it, and which supports the sun, moon, and stars. That was the view of nearly all Christians and Jews till the dawn of the modern era. By Luther’s time, some scientists (“philosophers”) were suggesting that there was no such dome. Did that sway Luther? No, sir. He was not going to have those scientists reinterpreting the plain teaching of the word of God:

      “ Scripture simply says that the moon, the sun, and the stars were placed in the firmament of the heaven, below and above which heaven are the waters… It is likely that the stars are fastened to the firmament like globes of fire, to shed light at night… We Christians must be different from the philosophers in the way we think about the causes of things. And if some are beyond our comprehension like those before us concerning the waters above the heavens, we must believe them rather than wickedly deny them or presumptuously interpret them in conformity with our understanding. “ Luther refused to even consider the evidence against the dome.

      ( And see the recent comment by Jim Heiling on the …was-the-expanse-overhead… article linked to above, where the Jim won’t give up on the solid dome of Genesis: “The literal solid firmament has never been scientifically disproven. There has never been any recorded movement of any constellation from ancient times to present. …. Modern science only works on paper, and has no provable data to support it outside of their own models and phony pictures. … The firmament is a dome as demonstrated by star trails. I taught the lie for twenty years…… No more “. It seems that he is actually serious about this. )

      Luther’s attitude here is precisely that same as today’s young earth creationists towards modern science. Again, I suggest that the reason you don’t agree with Luther is not primarily because of superior exegesis of the Hebrew, but because you accept the findings of modern science that there is no such solid dome. As with the moving earth, once you have internalized the scientific findings, it becomes quite natural to be reconciled to some sort of figurative understanding of the relevant passage. We now say, “Of course this is not meant to be literal” – but that “Of course” only comes AFTER acceptance of the science which obviates the literal view.

      And this is how it works with the age of the earth and with evolution. The vast majority of Christians with sufficient scientific exposure to understand and appraise the physical evidence find that it shows unequivocally that the universe was formed some 13 billion years ago, the earth was formed about 4.5 billion years ago, and that humans evolved from other primates over the last several million years. There was no worldwide flood which killed all but two of every land animal and all but eight humans. I have already provided links to articles which demonstrate the science here.
      Christians who internalize these scientific findings will of course conclude that the Genesis creation narrative was not intended to be taken literally, and will then look for some other resolution. Christians who do not appreciate the scientific evidence will be horrified at the thought of “compromising” the plain teaching of the Bible.

      What obscures matters at present is the vociferous advocacy of YE creationist organizations, claiming that the scientific evidence does not point to evolution and to an old earth. This is all deception (again, see many articles on this blog), but it is what many conservative Christians want to hear, and so the YE creationists have a large impact. It is human nature to try to interpret new input within the box of one’s existing, deeply-held beliefs.

      Appendix: Comments on some Propositions

      Comment on Proposition 3: For instance, Abraham is the prototypical man of faith. He was not asked to deny the present reality of his aged body or the past reality of years of childlessness. His faith was future-centered: in the near or distant future, God would work a miracle which transcended the normal operations of nature. (Rom 5:19-21). Faith involves embracing spiritual realities without being untruthful about physical realities. In II Kings 6, an enemy army surrounded the city where Elijah was. Elijah’s servant was terrified at the sight of the horses and chariots of the enemy circling the city. Elijah did not tell his servant that these hostile soldiers were not real. Rather, he prayed such that the servant could perceive the additional (and more decisive) spiritual reality, of angelic protection around Elijah, which seemed like chariots of fire.

      Comment on Proposition 4: I know of preachers who proclaim that they just believe the word of God and don’t rely on human wisdom. I honor their intention, but they are utterly deluded. In fact what they are doing is using their human reason to sift among interpretations offered by earlier Bible expositors using their human reason. These expositors were looking at translations made by translators using their human reason, based on Greek and Hebrew texts selected by textual critics using their human reason from among dozens of variant manuscripts.

      Comment on Proposition 6: In human language there is a recognized place for nonliteral modes of expression where the object of the communication is something other than describing mundane physical facts. Metaphor, hyperbole, oversimplification, and irony appear in both everyday speech and in biblical texts. Such statements can entail physical inaccuracies, but do not necessarily constitute deception or error, since the goal of the communication was not quantification of physical facts. Existing cultural norms and beliefs impact how an effective communication is formed.

      Telling stories that didn’t really happen is a well-established device in the Bible. For instance, in I Kings 20 a prophet wants to rebuke King Ahab for sparing an enemy king. The prophet does so by disguising himself with a headband and telling a made-up story about having let a captive escape. After he got the king to agree that that sort of irresponsibility deserved judgment, the prophet whipped off his headband and revealed that this story which was presented as fact was not literally true, but was figuratively about the king’s actions. When the prophet Nathan confronted David over killing Uriah and taking Uriah’s wife Bathsheba (II Sam 12), Nathan started off with telling a story about a rich man robbing a poor man of a lamb. Nathan presented it as a true story, even though it was not. After David himself pronounced judgment on such behavior, Nathan told him, “You are the rich man in this story!” It would have been inappropriate for David to brand Nathan as a false prophet for telling a story that was not literally true.

      Jesus’ primary mode of communication was to tell stories that never really happened: “With many similar parables Jesus spoke the word to them, as much as they could understand. He did not say anything to them without using a parable” (Mark 4:33-34, NIV). To argue over whether there really was a Good Samaritan is to completely miss the point of the parable.

      Comment on Proposition 7: Jesus said that the function of the Old Testament was to testify about him and his saving work (John 5:40; Luke 24:44), and Peter (I Pet 1: 10-12) wrote that prophets spoke of the sufferings and glory of Christ. In I Cor 15:3 ff. Paul stated what is of “first importance”, which is “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve”, etc. What is vitally important about the Old Testament is how it testifies to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But there is no such New Testament affirmation about the Old Testament teaching us geology or biology.
      II Tim 3:15-17 was written as advice to a young pastor, and calls attention to all the good teachings on faith and morals to be gleaned from the inspired Old Testament scriptures, so that Timothy might be equipped for every good work. Again, there is no affirmation about teaching science. The Bible never claims that all its statements about the physical world are true. Those who insist that every statement in the Bible about the physical world must be literally true are adding to the Word, and are merely promoting a tradition of men.

    • Denis,
      The bottom line from my previous comment is that it is appropriate to draw on observations and deductions from the natural world to decide whether some passage regarding physical phenomena or the physical history of the world should be taken as literally true or not. By that measure, the Genesis creation story cannot be regarded as literally true.

      A valid and deeply troubling question then arises: Paul and Jesus wrote and spoke about characters and events of Genesis 1-7 as though they believed in them. I am a scientist, not a theologian, so I do not claim to have an expert answer here. But I will share some of my personal opinions in case they are useful.

      I treated the case of Paul in that article on Adam, the Fall, and Evolution which I linked earlier and which you have looked at:
      “Paul clearly believed that Genesis 2-3 narrative to be literally true. Of course he did! How could he not? Any pious Jew or educated Christian of the first century accepted the Genesis narrative at face value. That is what they had all been taught, and they had no reason to think otherwise.
      Unless we are prepared to claim that God would give Paul supernatural knowledge of science, beyond the understanding of his age, we must accept that Paul would share the beliefs of those around him regarding the origins of the physical world. Paul did receive some special revelation, but that was clearly circumscribed.”

      As discussed in that article, the fact that Paul believed in the literal Adam and Eve story does not mean that we should believe in the literal Adam and Eve story. The fact that Paul insisted that women must wear head coverings does not mean we should insist that women should wear head coverings. As always, human reasoning is unavoidably involved in interpreting the meaning and application of the scripture. (When someone accuses you of using human reasoning to avoid the “plain meaning” of the scripture, all that means is that their human reasoning has led them to a different conclusion than your human reasoning…).

      Paul was not omniscient (see Acts 23:5; I Cor 13:12). He acknowledges that not everything he writes is an oracle of God; some is simply his opinion (I Cor 7:10-12). He does not claim that every statement in every letter is absolute truth. The fact that he was mistaken in believing in the literal Adam story does not obviate the authenticity of the revelation that he was given.

      As you stated so clearly, Jesus appeared to likewise assume the historicity of the creation account, which we now know is not supported by the physical evidence. There are several ways to deal with this. One reasonable explanation is that, like Paul, Jesus was not omniscient in the days of his flesh. This goes to the heart of how much he emptied himself at his incarnation of divine privileges (Phil 2:7), such that (like ordinary humans) he had to grow in wisdom (Luke 2:52). It can be fairly argued that if he were to really experience the human condition as indicated throughout the book of Hebrews, he didn’t walk around knowing everything all the time. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin“ (Heb 4:15).

      While he might receive words of knowledge from the Father as needed for ministry to others and to guide his critical decisions, Jesus did not automatically know everything. There is his clear statement in Mat. 24:36 that he did not know the timing of the Second Coming. Also, a straightforward reading of Mark 5:30-32 indicates that Jesus initially did not know who had touched him with faith in the crowd. The plain implication of Mark 11:13 is that he did not know that the fig tree with leaves had no figs until he went up close to look.

      If the Father did not reveal 21st century science to him, Jesus, like Paul, would be operating in the same ancient physical worldview as his hearers and would take Genesis as literally true. This intellectual limitation would not be sin, just as having his physical human limitations (getting hungry and tired; limited to one location) was not sin. Also, it would not compromise the authority of his teachings. He did not teach that Genesis was literally true, he merely assumed it. There is a big difference.

      On the other hand, suppose that Jesus was omniscient and knew the Genesis account to not be literally true, would it have been loving and productive for him to stand up and say, “ I tell you that the order of the creation days in Genesis 1 is messed up, and there was no global flood 2500 years ago that killed all but 8 humans” ? I don’t think so. Just as the original inspiration of Genesis worked within the pre-existing worldview of the Old Testament Israelites, so Jesus’ discourse worked within the worldview of the New Testament Israelites. He didn’t try to correct every wrong idea in their heads, just the crucial beliefs at the time. We should be impressed here by Jesus’ wisdom and communication skills here, instead of disputing over “error.”

      This is an example of accommodation of God’s revelation to the limitations of the hearers. This pattern of accommodation is evidenced by the progressive nature of revelation and by Jesus’s explanation for why he set aside the Mosaic permission for divorce: “It was because of your hardness of heart that he wrote you this law” (Mark 10:9, Matt.19:8). Jesus makes it clear that God’s basic moral standard was no divorce for anything other than adultery, but that God in giving the Mosaic Law had accommodated to the limited moral character of the ancient Israelites. Paul Seely’s book Inerrant Wisdom delves into all this, if you are interested in inquiring further.

      Finally, you wrote “The point is that sin and death originated with Adam.” Yes, that is what Paul wrote in Romans 5. No, that cannot be correct, since the human race did not start with one specially-created couple, and since animals were eating each other for millions of years before Homo sapiens arrived on the planet. Perhaps my article that I cited to you earlier was not clear enough. There I noted that since Paul was a first-century Jew, he would of course believe that the Genesis creation story was literally true, and given that belief, it was sound reasoning for him to draw parallels between Adam and Christ:

      “Paul never sets out to teach that the Adam and Eve story is literally true, he merely assumes it. There is a big difference. The references to Adam in Paul’s letters are never essential to the teachings there; they are always add-ons, to illustrate or buttress a point being made on other grounds. In both Romans 1-8 and I Corinthians 15, Paul is motoring along with his arguments (e.g. on salvation by grace through faith, or on the reality of a bodily resurrection), and simply adds in the references to Adam as they seem to fit his discussion. If those Adam references had not been included in Romans or I Corinthians,we would have never missed them.”

      I have plenty of my own sin that needs forgiveness, without needing to blame Adam for anything.
      Have to wrap this up now. My wife asked me what I was doing all afternoon, and I said responding to someone who had questions around Jesus endorsing the literal Genesis story. She reminded me of how much fear and guilt she experienced on this subject, as a deeply committed Bible-believing Christian who was confronted with the science, and she recommended I add a link to the story of her personal journey here: http://biologos.org/blogs/archive/the-bible-evolution-and-grace
      I hope this will be of some benefit to you. I took me a number of years to work through all this stuff myself. Blessings…

      • Denis Nedry says:

        I apologize for not responding to you yet but I have been busy. I am working on it though. Thanks

  10. Denis Nedry says:

    Hi Scott,
    Ok so I admit I forgot about responding to you for a while but work has been extremely busy. It is nice to hear your church conference went well. I agree with mostly all of your propositions, but we do disagree on the evidence and interpretation of the Bible.

    Proposition Comment 3: I agree

    Proposition Comment 4: I agree with this also, but I believe they are wrong not to use their reasoning. God obviously gave us reason and we should use it. How we use this reasoning is where we differ. These pastors have a duty to use their reasoning especially today. Their job is to help others understand the Bible. To just say God will do it is against just about everything in the Bible. Again, I don’t doubt their faith but it is a lazy approach to pastoring. Many pastors really don’t need to use much reasoning and I can’t blame them. I believe you could read signature in the cell or any other creationist book and instantly realize these things can’t happen. It is quite inherent in the human mind that you can’t get something from nothing. I knew that well but the more I researched the more I was amazed at the fine tuning of the universe and specified complexity of life.

    Proposition 5: I believe that this is exactly what materialist evolutionary scientists are guilty of. Their evidence may point to a theory on many occasions especially in the past, but as new information comes the theory should adapt or die (ironic). There are so many problems with the theory at every level that are just accommodated through convergent evolution, evo devo. There is no solid evidence to support these conclusions anywhere that I can see. In Durrett and Shmidts paper on point mutations, it has been proven that for 2 coordinated mutations to occur it would take 216 million years. They did state that there were 20,000 genes evolving simultaneously but mutational effects are not independent. Mutations that benefit one trait may inhibit another. Also, the changes that turn a land mammal into a whale for example are very complex. Each trait requires multiple mutations to achieve anything. Many traits must also occur together in order to benefit the species. Richard Sternberg (an evolutionary scientist) has talked about these changes at length in many of his lectures, videos, etc. if you want to look them up. How these changes could occur through mutation and natural selection are implausible at best as far as I can see and as far as any honest scientist can see today. I do not think that scientists should stop searching for answers but in this and many, many cases it seems futile to me. At the very least scientists should say “hey this seems impossible but we’re going to keep looking.” Instead, they turn it into a religion. Instead, they just say this is fact to the lay people and then silence everyone else. Not all evolutionary scientists, but most from what I’ve seen.

    Proposition 6: This is true that not everything in the Bible is literally true, but it is our job to reason through this. Some cases are presented as history and some not. Most of the time it is clear that something history is or a story. I believe that the Genesis account is history, but it is not science. The point of Genesis is not to provide how God made the universe and for many obvious reasons. However, it is clear that he gave us details as to what he did and when he did it.

    Proposition 7 Comments: I agree, but I don’t understand what the point of Genesis was in your opinion or of what value it holds in the Bible. It is almost the opposite of evolutionary theory. Ex Nihilo, timeframe, etc. I don’t understand what happened in the beginning but what I also have found is that materialists also have no idea. There are so many theories, many of which require more faith than I need to believe in the Bible, and no one agrees on anything. In the most accepted theory, 80% if the universe is unaccounted for (dark energy, matter). I know I will be accused of a God of the gaps here but so be it. This universe is beyond our comprehension.

    Proposition 8: I agree, but in the comments how can the literal straightforward view be that earth is stationary when the other time it is used it does not mean that. I agree that the straightforward English translation would mean stationary, but that would be wrong and that’s where reason comes into play. The simple answer to geocentricism is that the Catholic persecutors were wrong. They are flawed just like everyone else, and they may have not even been Christians or saved. That is God’s judgment not ours. There are creationists and evolutionists alike that are not saved. Like you said the main thing is Jesus’s death and resurrection. Likewise, John Calvin can be wrong.

    Concerning the firmament or expanse. There is much debate as to the interpretation. Genesis 1:7 says that God made an expanse that separated the waters below from the waters above. If it were solid that would mean that the space between the oceans and the waters above was solid or a thick dome. What the waters above are I do not know. This is a case of someone trying to describe what he is seeing without scientific terms. Also, there is a lack of vocabulary to use in describing what he sees. There were no words for space and or atmosphere. I have come to the conclusion that the firmament is space. Other verses state that the birds flew in the heavens. The word used for heavens applies to “above the firmament” according most who agree with the solid dome, but how can birds fly above the sun and moon. They would have obviously known this was false. The words used were the best words the writer knew to use, and it proves difficult for us to interpret. Other verses refer to the earth being hung upon nothing which seems to be the best non- scientific explanation you could use.

    I believe there are clearly implications to the worldview we chose. I personally do not like the way our country is headed and I think this is due to the materialistic worldview forced onto youth. Evolutionary theory (not natural selection) is clearly a stumbling block to faith. The idea of selective traits was understood long before Darwin from breeding and other observations. I can ask any of my atheist friends why they do not believe in God or the Bible and they say because of science. Of course, when pressed it comes down to other things, but the evolutionary worldview empowers and fuels their views. Think about if we actually told these students the truth in college. This being that the very basis of our theory of life and the universe is broken at the most fundamental levels. If you disagree with that statement please let me know. OOL’s best attempt is RNA World theory and that is a huge chicken and egg problem, and many scientists completely disagree with it as seen in the articles below which also explain many of my problems with the theory. Why aren’t these scientists quoted in textbooks.


    While I agree with many of your statements concerning the Bible, I do not agree about the evidence. If I thought all the evidence pointed toward a materialistic worldview I would accept it, but it doesn’t to me at all. I am not exclusively an advocate of ID and am a YEC but they all provide evidence. I would post citations from creation.com or answers in genesis but they are usually mocked (not that you would necessarily). I have found that to debate this issue you have to get down to the basics. I do not believe that science is the basis of faith, but it certainly can affirm it. This is why the subject is so important to me. We are losing young Christians at an alarming rate because we teach them that nothing matters, or that nothing matters but there is still a God behind it all. It usually doesn’t work that way and is too confusing for them. The Bible says that God is not a God of confusion. I believe that is exactly what we are doing by positing a materialistic worldview into the Bible. I apologize for the delayed response and the crude response to some of your propositions but I wanted to respond. Of course, this conversation could go on indefinitely but as you know it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t discuss them. God bless and thanks again for the response.

    Trust in the LORD with all your heart; lean not on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5

    For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.…Isaiah 55:9

    • Hi Denis,
      I’ll comment on few items in your recent comment here. Again, I appreciate the spirit of sincere inquiry, so I will try to answer as best I can.

      ( A) re: “ I believe you could read signature in the cell or any other creationist book and instantly realize these things can’t happen. It is quite inherent in the human mind that you can’t get something from nothing. I knew that well but the more I researched the more I was amazed at the fine tuning of the universe and specified complexity of life.” I agree with much of this. Signature in the Cell does a fine job explaining the hurdles in *chemical* evolution, that is, going from chemicals to the first living cells. I agree that no convincing mechanistic explanation for this has been forthcoming. Since this is a genuine gap in our understanding, I cannot object if someone wants to insert God’s miraculous activity in this gap (though based on the sorry history of god-of-the-gaps to date, I would not advise it). Also, I agree the fine-tuning of the physical constants of the universe is impressive, as is the evidence of a beginning to the universe itself, some 13 billion years ago.

      However, the evidence for the physical development of the universe (stars, supernovae, planetary accretion, billions of years of history in the rock layers) is very clear, as is the (biological) evolution of life from the first cells to today’s organisms. The fossil record is exactly what it should be if macroevolution and common ancestry are true: we see first appearances of single cell bacterial colonies 2-3 billion years ago, then simple multicellular organisms like sponges, then creepy crawlies on the ocean floor (~550 million years ago), then (in the vertebrate line, for instance) jawless fishes, then jawed fishes, a suite of fossils with mixed fish and amphibian characteristics (~400 million years ago), then full blown amphibians, then reptiles, then a suite of fossils with mixed reptile and mammal characteristics, then earlier (now extinct) mammals, then modern mammals.

      (To make full sense out of the fossil record, some obvious factors need to be taken into account, e.g. fossilization is often a very rare event, so we should not expect to see fossil representatives of every single species or family at all times. This means that the first and last appearances of a species in the fossil record cannot be assumed to necessarily be the times when the species itself first developed or finally went extinct, which in turn means that some fossils will appear to be out of expected order. Also, family trees are branchy, so we expect to find the fossil record dominated by species on side-branches rather than in the direct line of descent.)

      Whenever I have looked in the anti-evolutionist ( YEC/ID) attempts to attack the support of the fossil record for evolution, I found they are simply not telling the truth, or at least not the whole truth. See here https://letterstocreationists.wordpress.com/darwins_doubt/ for my assessment of Stephen Meyer’s effort (“Darwin’s Doubt”) to claim that the Cambrian Explosion is some sort of problem for evolution.

      Now that we can peer into genomes, it is also totally obvious that humans and chimps descended from a common ancestor – see e.g. here https://letterstocreationists.wordpress.com/2015/11/07/endogenous-retroviruses-in-your-genome-show-common-ancestry-with-primates/
      on endogenous retroviruses.

      To the extent that we are able to do tests and measurements, mutations (in the broadest sense, not limited to just point mutations in genes) and natural selection, along with other natural phenomena such at epigenetic factors and genetic drift, show the power to develop new traits. Gene duplication with subsequent mutation is especially potent.
      The main caveat here is that macroevolution is a very slow process. We know this from the timescale of the fossil record, and by inferences from measure mutation rates. In the wild it might take something like 50,000 years for a new vertebrate species to appear, and 2 million years to achieve full reproductive isolation. So for anti-evolutionists to demand to see “macro-evolution”, such as a new organ appearing, within the span of human historical observation (say the past 3000 years) is unrealistic. What is realistic is to find maybe a couple of instances of new species of fast-reproducing organisms appearing in the course of human observation, and that is what we do find.

      There are lots of evidences for plate tectonics, but all we can see in our lifetime is just a little motion, at the rate of about an inch per year. Understanding those rates, it would be unreasonable to brush aside all the evidence for continental drift (mid-ocean ridges with matching magnetic striping on either side, matching rock formations on the coasts of South America and Africa) and refuse to believe that South America and Africa were once joined, unless you can personally observe a continent torn asunder and see the rift fill with water. But that is the sort of demand made by YECs when they complain that no new organ has been observed to evolve in our lifetimes.

      Given the physical world we have, we are largely limited to doing controlled lab experiments on microorganisms, and making inferences as to genetic evolution by comparing the genes of similar (and presumably related) species. For the microorganisms, we can observed beneficial gene duplication events, and other beneficial mutations giving new traits. An example of inferred, historical genetic evolution in larger animals is the Antarctic notothenoid fishes. They have an unusual “antifreeze” glycoprotein (AFGP) which inhibits the formation of ice crystals in their bodies in the sub-freezing (-1.9 C) Antarctic waters. The AFGP is a polymer of a Thr-Ala-Ala glycopeptide monomer. From comparing with other fishes, it appears that a trypsinogen protease gene was duplicated, and in one copy the The-Ala-Ala region was expanded through multiple internal duplications. The exons coding for the protease sequences were lost, to yield the present form of the AFGP gene. Thus, a gene with an entirely different function was evolved. Now, an anti-evolution can say,”You have not proved that that is in fact what happened.” Fine, but all these mutational changes (gene duplication, deletions, etc.) have been observed to occur routinely, and so this putative sequence could readily have occurred, and so it serves as an example of how several simple, feasible mutations can evolve an entirely new function.

      The anti-evolutionists are reduced to complaining that we don’t know every detail about every mutational step along the way, from bacterial to us. Well, that information is simply not accessible – DNA in fossils does not last many millennia, and as noted the fossil record is only a partial sampling of the record of life, so we must deal with the information do we have.

      ( B) Anti-evolutionists also like to wave big numbers around to make a case the evolution is statistically nearly impossible. I have done some serious digging into these claims (see e.g. https://letterstocreationists.wordpress.com/stan-4/ ). In all cases I find that there is material misrepresentation of the facts or their significance. With that experience, I am not motivated to go chasing down some further claim (by Sternberg or whoever) that evolution has been shown to be nearly impossible.

      I will make an exception here for you, and examine the import of the statement “it has been proven that for 2 coordinated mutations to occur it would take 216 million years”. On the face of it, that is a number which seems to show that no significant evolution could take place in a reasonable timeframe, e.g. from apes to humans within the past six million years. That is exactly what the anti-evolutionists want you to think. Their rhetorical trick, again and again, is pretend that for evolution to proceed, a single, pre-specified set of several independent mutations must occur. But it is not so.

      The current odds of winning the Powerball lottery jackpot are about one in 300 million. If I go buy a ticket, even once a week for 10 years, the odds of me winning are essentially zero. According to the anti-evolutionists’ fallacy, this would mean that the jackpot would never be won. But it is in fact won, about once a month. The fallacy is restricting a successful outcome to one, pre-specified participant. But there are in fact many millions of ticket-buying potential winners, and before too many weeks goes by, the jackpot is won by one of these many participants.

      Turning to the human genome, it has about 3 billion base pairs. For each generation, about 50 mutations occur. Thus, your genome has about 50 new mutations relative to your parents’ DNA, in addition to the usual allele shuffling associated with reproduction. Relative to your great-grandparents, you have about 150 new mutations. Relative to your ancestors 100 generations back (say 3000 years ago), you have about 5000 new mutations. Just to simplify the math, if those mutations were all simply point mutations which could land anywhere in the genome, the odds of you having the genome you do are 1 in ( 3,000,000,000 !) / (5000! 2,999,995,000 !), where ! denotes factorial. This number is incomprehensively huge, it defies my calculator. A very rough approximation might be 1 in 10 to the 30th power. The antievolutionist argument would say that to get your specific genome, all these mutations would have to occur, but this probability is nearly zero, and so you cannot possibly exist – and yet here you are. And here are some 7 billion other folks, each differing from you by thousands of mutations, and yet living successfully. The key takeaway here is that there are many, many, many viable combinations of two mutations or five thousand mutations in the human genome. The probability of getting to any pre-specified one of those 7 billion genomes is nearly zero, but the probability of getting (in ten generations) to SOME viable, mutated genome is very high.

      One more set of big numbers: A typical human gene may have 1000 nucleotides. For each gene, then, the number of different pairs of nucleotides (which are potential point mutation sites) is 1000! / (2! 998!) or 500,000. Since humans have some 20,000 genes, the number of possible independent pairs of mutational sites is (500,000)(20,000) or 10 billion or 10,000 million. (We could tidy up some of these numbers, but it would not change the conclusions).

      This now puts that “216 million years” into perspective. Yes, it might take 216 million years for any single, pre-specified pair of mutations on a gene to occur in a human population of 10,000 individuals. But there are 10,000 million possible such mutations. It would be oversimplifying the math to simply divide 10,000 million by 216 million to yield an estimate that 46 pairs of such mutations are likely to appear every single year, but that is directionally accurate, and the point should be clear: It is highly probable that many, many viable pair mutations will occur over the course of millions of years of human evolution, as Durrett and Schmidt clearly point out in their response to Behe ( http://www.genetics.org/content/181/2/821.short ). The scary “216 million years” touted by guys like Behe and Sternberg, like most of the probability type stuff that gets waved around by the ID authors, is specious.

      It is true as you state that “Mutations that benefit one trait may inhibit another.” But it is also true that mutations that benefit one trait may not inhibit another, and can be beneficial with little bad side effects. There is a wide variety of effects, so it is not accurate to cite the cases of deleterious effects as though that precludes beneficial effects.

      ( C) You listed some links to ID articles, and asked “Why aren’t these scientists quoted in textbooks.“ The reason is simple: real scientists have carefully considered what the ID folks are claiming, and have concluded that their claims have no factual basis. Just looking at the third link, i.e. Luskin’s “the Top Ten Scientific Problems with Biological and Chemical Evolution”, I’ll give my perspective on the first five of these “problems”. Problems 1 & 2 have to do with chemical evolution (abiogenesis), where I’d agree science has little mechanistic explanation.

      “Problem 3: Step-by-Step Random Mutations Cannot Generate the Genetic Information Needed for Irreducible Complexity” – – This is way too big a subject to treat comprehensively in a comment here, but if you do due diligence googling on all sides of a given issue, you’ll find that all these ID claims have been answered by practicing scientists. Reading Dennis Venema’s articles http://biologos.org/blogs/dennis-venema-letters-to-the-duchess
      on Biologos would bring enlightenment. For instance, here Venema describes experimental results which show a phage doing what Behe claims is impossible: http://biologos.org/blogs/dennis-venema-letters-to-the-duchess/the-evolutionary-origins-of-irreducible-complexity-part-5 Some researchers provided a phage (a virus that attacks bacteria) an environment where its viability would be enhanced if it could evolve the ability to bind to a different protein than it normally does. Via random mutations and natural selection, the phage did develop this new ability. When the researchers tracked these mutations, they found that not two mutations (which Behe has claimed as the edge or limit of what random processes can implement), but four mutations were involved.

      Axe and Gauger’s work has little relevance to the real world. It “typically involves making evolutionarily absurd modifications to proteins and then showing that they don’t work” (Nick Matzke). Here http://sfmatheson.blogspot.com/2011/05/exploring-protein-universe-response-to.html
      Steve Matheson explains why the Douglas Axe experiments which Luskin cites as demonstrating the near-impossibility of evolving new proteins in fact demonstrate no such thing.

      The ID authors are masters at mining seemingly damaging quotes from academic papers, but when you read and understand the whole paper, you typically find (as with the Durrett and Schmidt paper) there is no actual problem for evolution. Here is how Luskin spins the Durrett and Schmidt paper: “ Four years later during an attempt to refute Behe’s arguments, Cornell biologists Rick Durrett and Deena Schmidt ended up begrudgingly confirming he was basically correct.” That is a deceptive characterization. All parties agree that the likelihood of attaining any particular pre-specified pair of mutations is very low. But as noted above this poses not the slightest problem for evolution, because of the overwhelming number of possible viable mutation pairs. That crucial fact, which is clearly stated by Durrett and Schmidt, Luskin withholds from his readers.

      “Problem 4: Natural Selection Struggles to Fix Advantageous Traits in Populations” – This is mainly a bunch of quotes from Michael Lynch and from Jerry Coyne who both hold that nonadaptive (non-selective) fixed mutations can make important contributions to evolutionary development, but differ on the level of that importance. Lynch is passionate on letting the world know that natural selection alone is not sufficient; but this has been known in the biology community since the 1980s (e.g. Kimura) and even Darwin wrote in 1859: “I am convinced that Natural Selection has been the main but not exclusive means of modification”, so Lynch is grandstanding a bit here. No biggie, but Coyne is rightfully concerned that Lynch’s strong statements can be misleading. This is a typical academic debate like a thousand other debates among scholars. Nothing to justify concluding “neither non-random forces like natural selection, nor random forces like genetic drift, can explain the origin of many complex biological features.”

      “Problem 5: Abrupt Appearance of Species in the Fossil Record Does Not Support Darwinian Evolution.” More scary and misleading quotes, calculated to give the lay reader that impression that all these scientists agree that the fossil record should be regarded as essentially complete and since the required transitional fossils have not been found, we should conclude these transitional fossils never existed and therefore the fossil record refutes evolution. This is typical ID deceit in action. That is not at all what these scientists are saying.

      What they are saying is that the fossil record shows that for long periods of time a species or family can exist with only slow, gradual changes (“microevolution”), but there are transitions which occur much faster than that usual pace. Often these transitions leave no fossil record of the intermediates involved. Fifty years ago, this was a real head-scratcher for biologists, and some were so wedded to a constant rate of evolutionary change that they did not take the fossil evidence of alternately slow/rapid change as seriously as they should. Now, with advances in population genetics, this is readily understood. It has been shown theoretically and empirically that new genes (from mutations) have a low chance of becoming fixed in a large population, but a much higher chance in a small, isolated population. So relatively rapid evolutionary transitions will tend to occur in small, isolated populations, but these are likely to leave no fossil trace. (“Relatively rapid” means rapid compared to the normal glacial pace of change in a large population; it does not mean that a reptile lays an egg and suddenly out hatches a mammal). After a new species develops which is well-adapted and spreads out and becomes numerous, it is more likely to leave fossils and to appear fairly static. This is basic arithmetic, and explains the facts. But of course Luskin conceals all this from his readers, citing only the quotes from Gould and Eldredge which define the initial puzzle (slow vs. fast rates of change), and not any quotes describing the solution to that puzzle.

      Darwin’s contention that the fossil record cannot be considered to be a complete representation of every species that ever existed is perfectly correct, and so there are no grounds for complaining about the fossils which have not yet been found. If we look at the fossils which have been, they fully support macroevolution and indeed show a number of intermediate forms which bridge some key evolutionary transitions (e.g. fish-amphibian and reptile-mammal).

      I have dealt with the massive ID misrepresentations on the Cambrian explosion in this article, https://letterstocreationists.wordpress.com/darwins_doubt/
      , and so will not recapitulate them in this comment.

      Finally, let’s unpack some of the deceit embodied in Luskin’s treatment of the hominid fossil record. He writes, “Hominid fossils generally fall into one of two groups: ape-like species and human-like species, with a large, unbridged gap between them. “ First, it is not accurate to characterize all the australopithecine species as merely “ape-like”. Australopithecus afarensis fossils like Lucy have features which in general fall about halfway between humans and chimps.

      More importantly, Luskin conceals from his readers that the genus “Homo” is not some homogeneous grouping, as though the first Homo species (e.g. Homo habilus) were basically like us. They were not. There was significant development, much of which is documented in the fossil record, to get from those earliest Homo species to us. Homo habilus had a protruding face (somewhat similar to apes), big brow ridges, and brain size closer to chimpanzees than to modern humans (!). As we go from Homo habilus to early Homo erectus to later Homo erectus to Homo heidelbergensis and on to early Homo sapiens and finally fully modern humans, there are successive changes in facial and dental characteristics, towards smaller brow ridges, and larger and larger brains. As usual, we have not found all the fossils that we’d like to, but if we examine the fossils which have been found, they clearly support the evolution of humans from earlier, more ape-like species.

      I could go on and on exposing the deceptions in the ID literature, but this should be enough to show you why these ID writings are regarded by practicing scientists as selective advocacy documents rather than serious scientific research. Also, since in cases where we can easily fact-check (e.g. fossil record, what Gould and Eldredge were saying, etc.) we find that ID proponents are systematically inaccurate, we should not lend credence to their claims (e.g. “not enough time for whales to evolve”) in areas where nobody really knows.

    • Denis, continued……
      Re: “Genesis 1:7 says that God made an expanse that separated the waters below from the waters above. If it were solid that would mean that the space between the oceans and the waters above was solid or a thick dome. What the waters above are I do not know.” The plain meaning here is that the firmament is indeed a solid dome. And the waters above must be the same as the waters below (i.e. a mass of liquid water), since the waters above and below were one big mass; the firmament was created to make a division in the midst of the waters: ““Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.” The word for The Hebrew word (mayim) used here for “waters” (both above and below) is the one for liquid water, not the ones that are used to refer to vapors, clouds or mists (e.g.ed in Gen 2:6, anan in Gen 9:13, ab in I Ki. 18:44, and nasi in Ps. 105:7). So the only consistent way to interpret Genesis 1 is that a (presumably solid) barrier was created in the midst of the primordial waters, with this barrier holding at bay the mass of liquid waters above it.

      The “waters above” appear to be still extant today. In Psalm 148:4 we read of “waters that are above the heavens”, where again the word for liquid water is used:
      Praise Him, highest heavens, And the waters that are above the heavens! (NASB)

      The great flood of Noah was partly sourced by the opening of windows or floodgates in the heavens (Gen 7:11), allowing the (liquid) waters above to pour through. These floodgates were closed (Gen 8:2) at the end of the Flood to stop the water from pouring down, indicating some of the water is still up there.

      The firmament (raqia) was a “something” that God “made”. That does not comport well with “raqia” denoting just an empty space between two bodies of water. There are no grounds to overrule the definition given by the Hebrew lexicon for “raqia”, namely “extended surface, (solid) expanse.” Had the author or inspirer of Genesis wished to describe an empty space, there are more appropriate Hebrew words to use.

      Re: “Other verses state that the birds flew in the heavens. The word used for heavens applies to “above the firmament” according most who agree with the solid dome, but how can birds fly above the sun and moon.” This is not correct. “Heaven” or “heavens” (shamayim) is used in many senses of the visible sky and of the abode of God. Thus, we need to let context and usage inform our understanding of what shamayim and raqia mean in their specific occurrences. Sometimes “heaven” refers to some aspect of the physical sky and sometimes it does not. God was not homeless prior to the separation of the waters on Day 2. The fact that Gen 1:14-17 uses the compound phrase “the firmament of the heaven” further indicates that “firmament” (raqia) is not one-for-one synonymous with “heaven” (shamayim). The Israelites would understand this phrase to mean “the spread-out dome of the sky”.

      It is very significant that the birds in Genesis 1:20 did not fly “in” (Hebrew: b’) the firmament, but rather “across the face of” (al-pnay) it. “Then God said, “Let the waters abound with an abundance of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the face of the firmament of the heavens.” “ That is exactly the language to denote them flying past a solid surface.

      The folks best placed to understand the meaning of the ancient Hebrew text would be the ancient Hebrews themselves. The Septuagint translation of Genesis into Greek was done by Jewish scholars around 300 B.C. The Septuagint was an authoritative version; typically the New Testament uses the Septuagint rather than the current Hebrew texts when citing the Old Testament. The Septuagint translators rendered raqia as “stereoma” which connotes solidity. The Latin translations of this passage followed the Septuagint’s lead in rendering this word as “firmamentum,” which again connotes solidity. The Jews of the Second Temple period, followed by practically everyone up through the Renaissance, all understood the raqia to denote a solid dome above the earth. The Jewish literature of that era includes discussions, for instance, of whether this dome was made of clay or copper or iron (3 Apoc. Bar. 3.7-8).

      So it is as plain as it can possibly be that the firmament of Genesis 1 is a solid dome, separating a mass of liquid water above from the world below. Luther was correct. Why is it that modern evangelicals desperately try to read into the text some completely foreign meaning like “outer space”? I think it is because they come at it with the assumption that Genesis 1-3 MUST be conveying scientifically accurate information. But that is a non-biblical assumption – – the Bible never claims that for itself. Yes, practically everyone before Galileo, including the New Testament writers, probably believed that, but pre-moderns believed a lot of things we now know to be untrue. This extra-biblical assumption, which is intended to honor God’s word, is not true and actually prevents folks from honestly and accurately interpreting the text for what it is saying.

      Ironically, because I do not come at the text determined ahead of time to make it conform to 21st century science, I am the one who is actually taking Genesis 1:6-7 literally, in the sense of acknowledging what it is actually saying. Instead of assuming the answer ahead of time from my own reasoning, I can let this text answer the question: Is Genesis 1 meant to teach accurate science? Comparing the literal meaning of Gen 1:6-7 to straightforward observations and reasonings regarding the atmosphere, the answer to that question is clearly “No”. With that settled, we need not stress over all the other inaccuracies in Genesis 1-3 , e.g. land vegetation created before marine life and before the sun was made (and it is “made”, not “appeared from behind the mist”), birds created before other terrestrial animals, humans specially created from dust, etc.

      Re: “I don’t understand what the point of Genesis was in your opinion or of what value it holds in the Bible.” I am not a theologian, but since you ask I will offer my opinion.

      Since modern science differs greatly from the science of the ancients, it was logically impossible unreasonable for God to provide a detailed creation story which would fit within the ancient physical outlook and also be congruent with what humans would discover thousands of years later. A consistent and realistic examination of Genesis 1-3 finds that God accommodated his revelation to the scientific worldview of the time. God could have corrected this ancient science, but chose not to. This was not a mistake or “error.” Rather, God wisely and graciously accommodated His spiritual revelation to the existing physical understanding (solid dome, fixity of species, etc. etc.), in order to facilitate communication of vital spiritual and relational concepts.

      We need to understand the physical aspect of the ancient worldview, without taking it to be authoritative, in the same way that we do not endorse slavery even though the Bible treats it as normative and do not require veils on women despite Paul’s direct command (I Cor 11:3-16). It’s just part of the task of translation.

      While not completely unanticipated (e.g. in the Egyption Aten cult), the ethical monotheism of the ancient Israelites was radically different from the common Near Eastern polytheisms and local gods. These competing religions typically included some account of creation which lent authority to their beliefs and helped to make sense of the world. The inspired Genesis account provided a means to effectively communicate a number of key concepts about God, humans, and the world. While employing the categories of ancient Near Eastern “science”, it completely overturned the pagan theology. In contrast to the quarrelling, needy gods of the pagans, the Genesis story depicts the Hebrew God as sovereign, calmly and freely choosing to create the universe, and delighting in his work.

      The creation was done in an orderly set of stages: the first three days of creation God formed various spaces or realms (e.g. the heavens, the seas, and the dry land), which He filled in the second three days (e.g. with birds, fishes, and land animals). Thus the earth, which was initially “formless and empty” (Gen 1:1), becomes formed and filled.

      In pagan thought, the celestial lights represented gods which held power over men. The Israelites themselves had a hard time to shaking off worship of the sun and moon (Job 31:26-28). Genesis 1 thoroughly subverts this idolatry: the sun, moon and stars are totally demythologized, being mere created objects. In delicious irony, instead of humans serving them, they are (in Genesis) to serve humans by providing light and marking off the days and seasons.

      The closest parallel to the Genesis story is the Babylonian creation myth known as Enuma Elish. There humans are created out of the blood of a slain god in order to be slaves, working so that the gods could be relieved of their labors and be at ease. This conception of humans helped to justify the Babylonian social order, where most men were effectively enslaved to the royal leaders. In Genesis, mankind has a far more dignified status. Adam is created from ordinary matter and then infused with the breath of life from God, being “in the image of God.” God does not need Adam’s labor or sacrifices. Instead, God works for the benefit of mankind, graciously giving them authority over the whole earth (Gen. 1), and making a fruitful garden and a suitable mate for Adam (Gen 2). God does “rest” at the end of the Genesis creation epic, but this is because He is satisfied with what He has sovereignly spoken into being, not because some flunky is fanning Him with a palm leaf.

      Thus, the pre-scientific Genesis creation account marvelously accomplished what II Tim 3:15-17 says is the purpose of the Scriptures. It vividly conveyed a high doctrine of God’s goodness and power, and His authority to give moral direction to humankind. It was thus “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” Retaining the ancient physical concepts (instead of trying to correct them) was essential in accomplishing this divine purpose for the people to whom this revelation was given. Anyway, that’s how I see it.

      Finally, re: “. I personally do not like the way our country is headed and I think this is due to the materialistic worldview forced onto youth. Evolutionary theory (not natural selection) is clearly a stumbling block to faith.” You raise an important point, and I share your concern. But this calls for very clear thinking. Belief in full biological evolution, including the development of Homo sapiens from earlier primates, is not at all a stumbling block to Christian faith. The faith of a billion Roman Catholics (the Catholic church does not dispute evolution), and of thousands of evangelicals like me who accept evolution proves me right here.

      The most acute factor in making evolution a cause for loss of faith are the well-meaning but mistaken claims of conservative Christians that (a) the Bible teaches that evolution did not happen (“If evolution is true, the Bible is false”), and that (b) the scientific evidence shows macroevolution and common descent are wrong. Many Christian young people who take biology in college or even high school figure out that evolution is true, and so realize their parents and pastors misled them on the science. If these young people have been taught “If evolution is true, the Bible is false”, they will naturally tend to say, “OK, so I guess the Bible is false”. This is straightforward, tragic, and unnecessary.

      The main blame for evolution-related loss of faith thus falls, in my opinion, on the men in YE creationist and ID organizations who trade on their scientific credentials to deceive lay Christians into believing that the anti-evolution viewpoint matches physical reality. The way for Christians to teach their kids to deal with evolution is not to deny it, but point out that God often works through extended processes (think: sanctification and parables of seeds growing). It is a great springboard for discussion of providence.

      But there is a further worldview issue, which you have touched on. Atheist proponents like Dawkins and Dennett claim that evolution supports their position and makes theism of any kind ridiculous. That is unfounded bluster, but only Christians who are grounded in good science can properly take these atheists on and show that evolution does not in fact point towards atheism (not matter what the atheists claim about it). See, for instance, The Dawkins Delusion and other writings by Alistair McGrath, and Francis Collins’ books, and the BioLogos website.

      Today’s aggressive atheists couple bad reasoning to good science. The right response is good reasoning, not bad science. My personal experience bears this out: my daughters are now adults, with vibrant Christian faith. As they were growing up, we exposed them to the full range of writings by C. S. Lewis. He (at least provisionally) did not dispute biological evolution. What he did was refute the ungodly implications that unbelieving philosophers tried to draw from evolution.

      I hope this is useful to you. I have tried my best to provide answers to these important questions you have asked. Blessings….

  11. Denis Nedry says:


    Here are my responses and thanks again. I will understand if you cannot continue due to the nature of this discussion. We could talk until rapture and not agree, but regardless here they are.

    1) “However, the evidence for the physical development of the universe (stars, supernovae, planetary accretion, billions of years of history in the rock layers) is very clear, as is the (biological) evolution of life from the first cells to today’s organisms. The fossil record is…”

    I do not agree that there is great evidence for deep time, as the science behind them is broken at its core. There are so many assumptions, and very few scientists or students agree on the issues. The theories regarding star formation and planetary accretion are of no use without outstanding assumptions. Assuming that dark matter even exists, there is a chicken and egg problem. A common problem for materialists I believe. Dark matter is god of the gaps for materialist cosmology. Planetary formation also lacks evidence as the stars that are supposed to aid in development also shun their development. There are many problems with these theories but they are all accepted as fact. This is because evolutionary theory is accepted as fact, so all the findings must comply even though they do not. Furthermore, the standard model of physics has yet to be proven wrong even though the model itself cannot account for gravity. It also does not align with the Big Bang theory. So we are teaching students that this is a fact. Up to 96% of the universe is unaccounted for but the theory is still fact.

    I would ask what the rock layers would look like if they were deposited in Noah’s flood. I would say it would look like it does today, and most geologists agreed until Lyell said he wanted to “free science from Moses.” Lyell was not a geologist but a lawyer and politician. Concerning the progression, I do not see the transitional species between these vast jumps. I see you stated that that is exactly what you would expect, but I see that as an after the fact statement. The fossil record is full of unconformities, out of place fossils, rapid appearances, anomalies, etc. The record is not neat and orderly but very crude. While it does show progression to a degree, I believe this can be explained by a flood. Certain animals would be buried according to their size and niche in the environment. More information detailed on creation websites and literature if you have interest.

    There is variety and even microevolution, as a perfect God would design, but no transitions. What is the advantage of part of a jaw when these jawless fish were operating fine without? Lampreys and Hagfish which are most like these jawless fish are alive and well today. Animals do change but never outside of their kind. Mosaic animals with a mixture of traits are perfectly suited for their needs. Different species can share characteristics and we should expect that from an efficient designer. What is missing are the transitions and the evidence for how these transitions can possibly occur. Going back to Richard Sternberg and whales, there isn’t enough time and it is not plausible. This is based on accepted evolutionary mutation rates, population genetics, etc.

    2) “Whenever I have looked in the anti-evolutionist (YEC/ID) attempts to attack the support of the fossil record for evolution, I found they are simply not telling the truth”

    Many would claim your response was not truthful, especially in the dating of the Cambrian time period which you put at about 60 million years. That is the largest length I have heard. Most range between 5 and 30 million. The publication tactics of Darwin’s doubt is no surprise as they have no other way of getting their views out. The scientific community silences anything to do with creation or design so how else do you get support.

    Concerning the nature of the fossil record, here are some quotes from notable scientists in the field including S. J. Gould.

    “The absence of fossil evidence for intermediary stages between major transitions in organic design, indeed our inability, even in our imagination, to construct functional intermediates in many cases, has been a persistent and nagging problem for gradualistic accounts of evolution”

    Concerning an imperfect record, “persists as the favored escape of most paleontologists from the embarrassment of a record that seems to show so little of evolution directly.”

    Robert Carroll, a paleontologist at McGill University, argues in Trends in Ecology and Evolution that “The extreme speed of anatomical change and adaptive radiation during this brief time period requires explanations that go beyond those proposed for the evolution of species within the modern biota.”

    Niles Eldredge, an evolutionary paleontologist and curator at the American Museum of Natural History “The record jumps, and all the evidence shows that the record is real: the gaps we see reflect real events in life’s history — not the artifact of a poor fossil record.”

    More from http://www.evolutionnews.org/2015/01/problem_5_abrup091141.html

    At the very least, I believe it is not honest to say that fossil record is incomplete as statement of fact.

    In small (mammalian) populations, the mutations take a long time to be fixed. Also, this goes back to the paper by Durrett and Schmidt on coordinated mutations.


    “Kimberella does not possess any unequivocal derived molluscan features, and its assignment to the Mollusca or even the Bilateria must be considered to be unproven.”
    (Budd, Graham E., and S?ren Jensen, “A Critical Reappraisal of the Fossil Record of the Bilaterian Phyla,” Biological Reviews of the Cambridge Philosophical Society, 75 (2000): 253-95.)

    3) From your paper “The Grand Canyon is impressive, surprising to come across, and not entirely explained yet by science (there is disagreement on how old it is , and no one really knows where the Colorado River, if there was one back then, was flowing prior to the uplift of the Colorado Plateau millions of years ago). However, the wonder and the mystery would not justify abandoning a scientific framework for the erosion of the Canyon, and believing that only an alien spaceship or a giant supernatural finger reaching down from heaven could have carved out such a spectacle.”

    I do not posit a giant finger, but rather a giant flood. Floods are known to produce smaller scale grand canyons like the Burlingame Canyon near Walla Walla, Washington in only 6 days. There is great evidence for my beliefs, and it is evidence I can watch happen. There are geologists who believe in catastrophism and there is good reason why. We have clear evidence that it occurs and has devastating results.


    I cannot respond to your entire paper due to time constraints. A great deal of this paper is not fact, but opinion, and dependant on the uniformitarian and evolutionary worldviews. If it doesn’t line up with this paradigm then it is not accepted.

    4) “totally obvious that chimps and humans come from a common ancestor”

    This is most likely based on homology, genome similarities and chromosome fusion.”

    Homology is also a design feature. Genetic similarity is also a design feature and the numbers have been extremely biased. % similarity can be as low as 70%. Most of these studies have ignored “junk DNA” which can account for up 24% of differences. All of these percentages appears somewhat meaningless and in no way prove common descent.

    In response to endogenous retroviruses, genetic similarity respectively:


    5) You stated that “The main caveat here is that macroevolution is a very slow process.”

    The fossil record does not support this as there are many cases where animals are found fully formed from their supposed descendants within small evolutionary timeframes. The whale only had about 5 million years to go from a walking land animal to a fully aquatic whale. The amount of novel genetic information needed to perform this transformation is unbelievable.

    “they need to possess a ball vertebra because the tail has to move up and down instead of side-to-side, they require a re-organization of kidney tissue to facilitate the intake of salt water, they require a re-orientation of the fetus for giving birth under water, they require a modification of the mammary glands for the nursing of young under water, the forelimbs have to be transformed into flippers, the hind limbs need to be substantially reduced, they require a special lung surfactant (the lung has to re-expand very rapidly upon coming up to the surface), etc. etc.”


    I have yet to receive any possible explanation for the evolution of whales, nor have I seen any plausible explanation. Most explanations are merely an attack on the credibility of those questioning the data.

    6) You stated, “To the extent that we are able to do tests and measurements, mutations (in the broadest sense, not limited to just point mutations in genes) and natural selection…”

    Epigenetics only adds a new layer of specified complexity and information that must be explained. Genetic drift and gene duplication do not explain the origin of the information and the probability of their success (in combination with natural selection) is vanishingly small.

    7) “There are lots of evidences for plate tectonics, but all we can see in our lifetime is just a little motion, at the rate of about an inch per year…”

    They do not demand that new organs should appear in our lifetime. They want to see the scientific evidence that it is possible at all. When you disagree that is fine, but to say it is fact is where the issue is.

    8) “Thus, a gene with an entirely different function was evolved. Now, an anti-evolution can say,” You have not proved that that is in fact what happened.” Fine, but all these mutational changes (gene duplication, deletions, etc.) have been observed”

    The antifreeze fish is very interesting, but it would be an example of the edge of evolution. God created creatures with the ability to adapt to their environments and that what these fish did. The AFP proteins involved in this process are a relatively simplistic and do not interact with any other processes. Note that I do not deny that evolution occurs, but rather that it cannot produce men from molecules. Also, as you stated, it was not proven and not explained. What were the steps, advantages at each step, timescale, etc?

    9) “Anti-evolutionists also like to wave big numbers around to make a case the evolution is statistically nearly impossible… Their rhetorical trick, again and again, is pretend that for evolution to proceed, a single, pre-specified set of several independent mutations must occur. But it is not so.”

    The problem is that mutations are mostly independent and the traits we are talking about are complex adaptations. Some of these traits require the mutations must occur together. If you are arguing for small changes such as drug resistance then I agree. These changes, although rare, do occur, but we are talking about large scale changes to an animal’s body plans that must be coordinated in order for the species to survive. An adaptation could evolve that would be useful down the road, but without other adaptations in place, the species is not at an advantage. Mutations can achieve many things but there is a limit to their capabilities. A good example would be chloroquine resistance. I would encourage scientists to keep researching but the evidence is always lacking.
    Side note: Joe Thornton’s work on reverse protein evolution is interesting, but in the end it also meets the limits of evolution.

    At the base of all this is OOL. The order in the proteins and DNA is independent of the chemical properties which make them up. There is a chicken and the egg problem that can’t be solved. Ice crystals are the product of the properties of water molecules. Furthermore, we can create snowflakes simply in a lab. Life is anything but simple and wondrous and beautifully crafted. The reason why life is so improbable is because it is specified complexity unseen anywhere else in the universe (as far as we can tell). The probability of an environment that can sustain life is just as slim as abiogenesis itself. It is far beyond any natural explanation and has been deemed not implausible but mathematically impossible. This means that probability has nothing to do with it. Ongoing research is encouraged, but there has been no great advancement in the field. If you are in the middle of the desert and you come across a carved stone tablet with writing on it, what is the first thing you say? Who made this? You would never say what random processes made this thing. If it could be proven that natural processes could easily produce life I would say okay God created the natural processes and that is incredible. The problem is we have no idea how these processes could have occurred, and the probability if they could occur is always vanishingly small. I will take the more simple and obvious choice. Life is a miracle which is how God describes it in the Bible.

    10) Response to Top Problems with evolution: the ones you mostly responded to.

    Problem 3: I think Behe’s claim was that they have to be gain of FCT. I was aware of Durrett and Schmidts response but not in that particular article. It is stated several times in more in depth articles. One example below.


    Problem 5: The smaller the population size the less time for beneficial mutations which is the key. It’s a no win situation no matter the population size.

    11) Luskin on hominid fossil record:

    Fossils mostly tell you what you want to hear. The fossil record is a mess in regards to human evolution and many other species. As Luskin states it can clearly be seen which fossils belong to humans, and which belong to australopithecines. All of the physical features you have stated can be seen on people today. Brain sizes vary within humans, along with many other features. The point is that the record is heavily biased and based off of scarce information. The problem I have is the fact that the word “fact” is attached to these findings. I find that most of the findings on human evolution are overturned with time.

    12) “Genesis 1:7 says that God made an expanse that separated the waters below from the waters above. If it were solid that would mean that the space between the oceans and the waters above was solid or a thick dome.”

    What I was referring to here was the fact that if the firmament separated the waters above and below then it would be impossible to inhabit the space between them. You can occupy a solid space. I don’t know about you but I give the writer credit enough to know that there is not a solid dome like material covering the ocean. This leads me to believe that there was a lack of scientific terms to explain what the writer was describing. He could not explain atmosphere for one. He just knew that there was something separating the earth from space and indeed there is.

    13) “The great flood of Noah was partly sourced by the opening of windows or floodgates in the heavens (Gen 7:11), allowing the (liquid) waters above to pour through. These floodgates were closed (Gen 8:2) at the end of the Flood to stop the water from pouring down, indicating some of the water is still up there.”

    Based on verses from similar time periods and possible the same writer it looks like they had a pretty good grasp of what was happening around them.

    “He wraps up the waters in his clouds, yet the clouds do not burst under their weight.” Job 26:7

    While nothing is scientific in the Bible, it does explain the environment according scientific understanding to a degree.

    14) “The firmament (raqia) was a “something” that God “made”. That does not comport well with “raqia” denoting just an empty space between two bodies of water. There are no grounds to overrule the definition given by the Hebrew lexicon for “raqia”, namely “extended surface, (solid) expanse.”

    I believe raqia does comport well with something God made as it is the space we occupy and live in. It holds the most immediate importance, and as it turns out it is not just empty space but air we breathe.

    I found this website, among others, to have good information on matters pertaining to poor (out of context) translation.


    Early literature does show that some Christians believed in a solid dome, but that does not make them correct or the Bible false. The Bible is God breathed and people are flawed beyond belief.
    I would not argue that the firmament and the heavens are one in the same. Perhaps I explained that poorly, but rather that the expanse is within the heavens. Circumstantially, it may also include the expanse. Once again, the Bible is not scientific in nature but it does explain how they viewed the world. I would say they viewed it as we did but we with different terminology.

    15) “Why is it that modern evangelicals desperately try to read into the text some completely foreign meaning like “outer space”?

    I would say that we came to understand what was already known.
    Sometimes I believe the Bible is something that is gradually understood rather than gradually unwound by time. For example, the verse I referred to stating that “as high as the heavens” only became known to us from science. We can now see that His ways are vastly superior to our ways. Another example would be:

    “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” Psalm 103:12
    It may have seems like a vast distance to early peoples, but now we know it is basically means infinite.

    16) “We need to understand the physical aspect of the ancient worldview, without taking it to be authoritative, in the same way that we do not endorse slavery even though the Bible treats it as normative and do not require veils on women despite Paul’s direct command (I Cor 11:3-16). It’s just part of the task of translation”

    Slavery in the bible was indentured servitude. This would almost be the same as having a job today except society was different back then in terms of employment you might say. the point is that they willfully worked as slaves. If you disagree we can discuss. Paul told the women to in Corinth to wear this veil because it was part of their culture that showed submission to God. Paul spoke to different peoples and cultures. In today’s culture we do not view coverings the same way. Likewise, not wearing a covering does not have a negative effect on others. The following link is a good description.

    I agree with your points on the difference between other religions of the time. It does show the differences of how life and God is viewed. But, I do not agree that it is simply allegory.

    17) “The faith of a billion Roman Catholics (the Catholic church does not dispute evolution), and of thousands of evangelicals like me who accept evolution proves me right here.”

    I believe that the Roman Catholic Church manipulates the Bible to accommodate the world. Their doctrine is very misleading in terms of salvation. This does not mean that they do not all have salvation, but that they are deceived. I would also say that evangelicals that accept materialistic thought are deceived. I saw that you have read CS Lewis so I’m sure you have read the Screwtape Letters. While I do not prescribe the devil to all things, I am sure that he is the very definition of deception.

    I would obviously disagree with your statement on YEC and ID. ID does not deal with Christianity and is completely science based. It only leads to a designer. Proponents of ID have faiths which they discuss, but do not impose on the designer.

    I would not agree that students realize that evolution is true but rather take the word of their professor because he or she is educated beyond their level, or they do not have the confidence to speak against it. In a room full of young, naive, liberal minds, a Christian against evolution will be mocked, and that is hard to face. Furthermore, the only Christians that I know who believe in evolution do not have any understanding of it. They were simply taught it in college and went along with it. Standing against materialistic thought takes perseverance, and that is what I believe these students need.

    18) “Today’s aggressive atheists couple bad reasoning to good science. The right response is good reasoning, not bad science.”

    I would say many of today’s atheists are behaving accordingly. I am not sure where God comes into play in theistic evolution because everything is natural and random. I would need clarification because very honestly it never made sense to me. ID theory would state that God intervenes, and so they do not reject common descent. Rather they doubt Darwinian mechanisms. I have read that theistic evolution is similar but where the differences are I’m not sure.

    I do not see any evidence of macroevolution and I am not convinced all this can be explained by small populations, mutations, NS, convergent evolution, etc. I just see many scientists clinging to a materialist worldview and accommodating it at every turn. The best thing I think they have going for them is homology which can be better explained by design. I do not understand how this is called fact. It is the furthest thing from fact in the whole of science. Most of our biggest questions are not answered in its endeavors, nor does its knowledge have any benefit (not microevolution). Virtually all fields of study have little influence from this theory, but scientists refer to its absence as “scary.” If we are worried about a lack of scientific advancement, evolutions’ exit will not change anything. It has postponed advancement in many fields of research including epigenetics.

    I find materialistic thought to be one of the biggest hindrances to society. True science is found on the fringes, and not within the consensus as history has shown. I am hopefully things will change, but realize this is a sinful world. I also realize we will not agree on this, but I am happy we agree on the Main Thing. I apologize once again for any crude responses, but it is difficult to address these issues through this medium and on a busy work schedule. I tried to respond to as many points as time permitted, and I may have went into too much detail for which I apologize. Thanks again for your timely response. God Bless.

  12. Denis,
    Thank you for your recent set of comments. These continue to be gracious and well-reasoned. In the interest of time, I’ll limit my responses here to a few matters of geology/paleontology and specific Bible passages where I think it is worth bringing forth additional information.

    Regarding the history of geology – – –
    Re: “…., and most geologists agreed [that the rocks looked like they were deposited in Noah’s flood] until Lyell said he wanted to “free science from Moses.”
    That is not really accurate. There was a wide variety of opinions prior to Lyell. Some early naturalists (e.g. Werner) held to “Diluvianism” or “Neptunism”, but the key notion there was not that the rock layers were deposited by sediment which had been eroded and swept away by the Flood (as taught by today’s YE creationists), but rather than the layers (including basalt and granite, which we now know come from solidified lava) were chemically precipitated out of solution from oceans. On the other hand, the “Plutonists” believed the earth formed from the gradual solidification of a molten mass at a slow rate by the same processes that had occurred throughout history and continued in the present day. This theory had no use for a worldwide flood and militated against a young earth. Cf. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_geology

    Folks back then had no real idea of how rocks actually formed, and did not yet know of detailed ordering of the fossil record (stratigraphy). There was no systematic study of stratigraphy until around Lyell’s day. The first complete mapping of the surface rock exposures of Britain was published in 1815 by William Smith. As a canal surveyor, Smith had noticed that the same vertical order of fossils appeared in rock layers across the country. Lyell studied the rock layers intensely starting in the 1820s, and first published his Principles of Geology in 1830.
    The most notable pre-Lyell geologist was James Hutton, who certainly did not hold with the Genesis Flood: “James Hutton is often viewed as the first modern geologist. In 1785 he presented a paper entitled Theory of the Earth to the Royal Society of Edinburgh. In his paper, he explained his theory that the Earth must be much older than had previously been supposed in order to allow enough time for mountains to be eroded and for sediments to form new rocks at the bottom of the sea, which in turn were raised up to become dry land.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geology#History_of_geology

    Re: “Lyell was not a geologist but a lawyer and politician.” – – – – Not so. Lyell practiced law for a few years in the 1820’s, then gave it up. He was “the foremost geologist of his day”, held the post of Professor of Geology at King’s College London in the 1830s, was secretary of the Geological Society, received the Copley Medal from the Royal Society, etc. etc. , per https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Lyell Lyell studied the rocks intensely starting in the 1820s, and first published his Principles of Geology in 1830. William Smith’s groundbreaking mapping of the geology of Britain was published in 1815.

    The reason that many (not all) of his ideas were accepted were that they best explained the facts. Stratigraphic studies showed, over wide areas of Western Europe, the same succession of marine animal remains. It became clear that over time and over wide areas, the new species would appear and old ones go extinct. The exact same ordering of these species could be found in rock layers in various parts of Britain and France. Some of these broad groupings (periods) of fossils were named for the districts where they were initially identified (Cambrian, Ordovician, Devonian, Silurian, etc.). In many cases the boundaries of these periods were marked by extensive extinctions, so a largely new community of organisms would arise. Within each period, there are perhaps 5-8 recognizable stages, which again appear in the same order everywhere.

    This all was seen as incompatible with one large Flood as depositing these layers. Such a Flood would deposit sediments on top of the existing sea bottom and give one original sea bottom layer in any one location, covered by masses of other sediment pouring into the seas from erosion by the Flood. If these sediments were all churned up and redeposited over the course of a year’s Flood, they would be quite mixed together.

    No matter the claims of Flood proponents, the proposed explanation of hydrodynamic sorting for these fossils does not work. At each stage of say the Ordovician period, the community of fossils comprises a wide range of sizes and shapes, which don’t on average differ a lot from the range of size and shapes in another stage. Many of these remains were of bottom-dwelling hard-shelled sea creatures, so the narratives proposed by YE creationists about how fleet-footed, intelligent mammals ran for the highlands during the Flood and so ended up in higher rock layers than the slow, stupid dinosaurs cannot pertain. Ordovician trilobites did not outrun the Cambrian trilobites in a race to higher ground. Rather, it was clear that the community of organisms present in the sea and especially on the sea bottom changed and changed and changed over long periods of time of sedimentation.

    While not meeting evangelical standards of doctrine, Lyell himself was a sincere Christian believer (e.g. from his obituary in the N Y Times in 1875: “But, though an evolutionist, Lyell was not a skeptic. He lived and died a Christian believer.” http://geochristian.com/2009/02/11/charles-lyell-geologist-christian-believer/ ). He did not start out with a nefarious goal of undermining the Bible. Rather, he found that the best explanation of the geological facts was by assuming that currently-observable processes had been in operation over long time periods. For most of his career, certainly the early, formative part, he held to a supernatural creation of humankind. Thus, he initially had difficulty wholeheartedly endorsing Darwin’s evolution in 1859, although eventually he was won over. ( “Lyell, a devout Christian, had great difficulty reconciling his beliefs with natural selection” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Lyell ).

    Anyway, as the stratigraphic evidence became clearer, other leading geologists of that era like William Buckland and Adam Sedgwick, who were devout, orthodox Christians and who initially tried to interpret the sedimentary rock layers laid down by Noah’s Flood, were reluctantly forced to conclude that the single big Flood of Genesis could not be supported. Then as now, there were holdouts for the literal Genesis story, regardless of the physical evidence. That was the context of Lyell wanting to “free science from Moses.” Sedgewick was a strong evangelical Christian, and he used language similar to Lyell’s, charging the authors of the authors of the “Mosaic Geology” of his day with having committed “the folly and the sin of dogmatizing on matters they have not personally examined, and, at the utmost, know only second-hand – of pretending to teach mankind on points where they themselves are uninstructed.” [from Davis Young in Portraits of Creation (1990)]. This would be stated in modern terminology by today’s evangelical scholars like the geology professors at Gordon or Wheaton colleges as “Flood geology does not properly account for the physical evidence”.

    Besides the order of fossils, rock formations like angular unconformities showed these early geologists that the earth is very old. An example is found at Siccar Point, on the coast of Scotland. The lower formation there is a set of layered greywacke and shales, with a total thickness of more than two miles. These are heavily metamorphosed by heat and pressure, and are tilted nearly vertical. On the jagged surface of this formation, the ends of these layers protrude into a nearly horizontal red sandstone formation. It is clear that the following events took place:

    (1) Thousands of feet of sediment were eroded from somewhere and accumulated underwater to form what we now see as the greywacke. Even more sediment was laid down on top of that, to compress and cook it to form solid rock layers.
    (2) This whole assembly was tilted and raised above sea level.
    (3) Thousands of feet of solid rock were eroded away to form the top surface of the greywacke that we now see as the unconformity. We know this lower rock was solid at this point, because fingers of it protrude into the sandstone above, and solid chunks of the lower rock are found embedded in the sandstone.
    (4) The greywacke then sank below the waters, and many more feet of sediment were deposited, starting with the conglomerate and the red sandstone, then more layers on top to lithify them.
    (5) Finally, this formation was again lifted above sea level, and many feet of the overlying (solid) rock were eroded away to form the present land surface in that area of Scotland.

    YE creationists can probably come up with some alternative explanation here which satisfies them, but it became obvious to practically everyone by 1840 that these sequence of events could not be fit into a one-year Flood.

    This site http://www.scibel.com/scibel/materials_myths_few_scientists_true_christians.html
    notes famous scientists who were confessing Christians, and provides this list of Christians who were key figures in the development of modern geology:
    “The real birth of modern geology in the nineteenth century owed much to the devout Protestant Georges Cuvier (1769-1832). Other figures were Rev William Buckland (1784-1856) at Oxford and at Cambridge the devout evangelical geologist Adam Sedgwick (1785-1873). Sedgwick mapped more of the geological strata than any other person, and modern geology has accepted his ideas of periodic geological catastrophes (rather than the denial of them by Charles Lyell – himself a nominal Christian vetted for Christian orthodoxy when appointed by University College London in 1831). Prominent American geologists included active Christians Benjamin Silliman (1779-1864) president of the Association of American Geologists etc, Edward Hitchcock (1793-1864), and James Dana (1813-1895) who succeeded Silliman at Yale, edited the American Journal of Science, was president of the Geological Society of America, president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, etc.”

    In sum, modern geology was not developed as a stealth attempt to undermine Christianity or the Bible. Rather, it simply fit the facts. There was no atheistic academic establishment pressuring these Christians to adopt an old-earth view; these men were themselves the academic establishment of that time.

    Re: “The fossil record is full of unconformities, out of place fossils, rapid appearances, anomalies, etc. The record is not neat and orderly but very crude.”

    As a general statement, that is not accurate. While there are exceptions, in the vast majority of cases index fossils (the better ones, anyway, like the microscopic Foraminifera ) occur in consistent and predictable ways: “Since microfossils are often extremely abundant, widespread, and quick to appear and disappear from the stratigraphic record, they constitute ideal index fossils from a biostratigraphic perspective. In addition, the planktonic and nektonic habits of some microfossils gives them the added bonus of appearing across a wide range of facies or paleoenvironments, as well as having near-global distribution, making biostratigraphic correlation even more powerful and effective.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Micropaleontology

    Of course there will be some oddities. The earth is a big place, and a lot has happened with crustal movements over the past half billion years. It is expected that there will be unconformities – -that is an obvious consequence of the rise and fall of local sea levels (i.e. in a particular area, if the land is first under, then above, and later under the water, there will be a break in the fossil record). Also, we can tell from the geology that some big sections of land can get shoved atop other sections, putting older layers atop young layers. We can see this happening in real time in the Himalaya, and we see the hallmarks of similar crustal movements in many other places. There is a set of thrust faults along the western slope of the Rocky Mountains, which includes the Lewis Overthrust in Montana. Since that gives nominally out-of-order fossil layers, YE creationists have tried to maintain this formation was the result of placid, continual deposition in place, instead of an overthrust. However, mapping of the local geology shows clearly that this is an overthrust, and you can even see the crushed, folded rock along much of the interface. Other common sense caveats apply, such as that some species may appear or disappear earlier in one region than in another.

    As more and more fossils get discovered, naturally specimens of a given organism will be found in some older or younger formation than where it had earlier been found, thus extending the time range of that fossil. For instance, a fossil in the Ordovician period might be found of a trilobite which previously had only been known from the Cambrian. YE creationists often claim these as “out of place” or “out of order” fossils. That is ridiculous. Extending the range of a given fossil is both evidence for, and a consequence of, the incompleteness of the (discovered to date) fossil record.

    The general uniformity of the fossil order is not some conspiracy of godless academics. Hardheaded oilmen, who just care about what works, find that certain fossils do in fact appear in the same order all over the world. These are folks who drill holes in the ground everywhere and analyze the contents, so they would know. You can go read any book on stratigraphy for petroleum prospecting, and see that they find long ages and faunal succession to be reliable bases for spending billions of dollars on drilling wells. You don’t find them wringing their hands over how terribly random and unreliable the fossil record is. Here is one such writer, noting how reliable certain index fossils are (“After a lot of wells were drilled, it became clear that certain microfossils were only found in certain rock layers. When you drill into a layer containing one of these index fossils, you are almost sure you know the age of that rock.”):

    “In oil geology’, paleontologists use microfossils to determine the formation which contains specific fossils. These fossils are called index fossils and paleontologists use them and the principle of the superposition to make a biostragraphic correlation for the drilled formations. When an oil well is drilled, small cuttings come to the surface. Sometimes, these cuttings of rock include microfossils. The further and further down you drill, the older and older these microfossils get.
    Geologists and paleontologists have been able to put dates on some of these fossils. After a lot of wells were drilled, it became clear that certain microfossils were only found in certain rock layers. When you drill into a layer containing one of these index fossils, you are almost sure you know the age of that rock. So, a certain rock layers that may contain oil can now be more easily found. For example, immagine a well is drilled through rock layers containing microfossil “x”, then “y”. Then, it went deeper till it encountered microfossil “z” followed by striking an oil zone. If a similar well is drilled nearby and we found microfossils “x” and “y”, we can expect to see microfossil “z” next, and with it, possibly oil.”

    One specific example here involves a fossil fish. 400 million years ago, the seas were teeming with various types of fish, most of which lived entirely underwater, and had fairly flimsy fins. By about 365 million years ago, fossil evidence exists for primitive tetrapods, such as Acanthostega and Ichthyostega. These creatures had four limbs which could support some weight and assist in moving around in shallow water, although they probably could not readily walk around on dry land. (Note: various intermediate species can co-exist/ overlap and as we have discussed, the ages of both amphibian-like fishes and fish-like amphibians are expected to be extended in the fossil record as new discoveries are made, so there is nothing problematic if some amphibian fossils turn up which are dated earlier than 365 million years ago).

    Various lobe-finned fish fossils have long been known, where the skeletal structures of the fins include primitive versions of the bones found in the limbs of later, terrestrial animals. Examples include Eusthenopteron and Panderichthys, whose remains have been dated to about 380 million years ago. While these fossils hint at evolutionary pathways toward tetrapods, these are still very much like regular fishes. Scientists believed that an intermediate species with more pronounced tetrapod-like features should have existed.
    In 1999 a team of scientists led by Neil Shubin of the University of Chicago set out to find such a transitional fossil. Since the main fish-tetrapod fossil gap was in the 363-380 million year range, they decided to focus on an exposed formation of rocks in the Canadian Arctic which were of that age, and which had been deposited in a shallow freshwater environment. Out of 57 million square miles of the earth’s surface, they used evolutionary assumptions to focus on a few square miles. After digging for several years, they were rewarded with the discovery of remains of a fish they named Tiktaalik. While Tiktaalik is firmly on the fish side of the fish-tetrapod divide, it has an impressive suite of tetrapod-like features (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiktaalik ).

    This was a dramatic vindication of evolutionary theory. One thing you and I might actually agree on is the difficulty of finding such transitional fossils. A key test of any scientific theory is the ability to make novel predictions which can be experimentally verified. Operating within the conceptual framework of mainstream geology (an old earth) and biology (common ancestry), Shubin’s team picked one location to excavate, and found the type of fossil (previously unknown) that they had predicted. There is nothing in YE creationism or Intelligent Design which could produce such a precise and novel prediction.

    If you choose to focus on the exceptions, and to cite the endless YEC/ID articles along that line, so be it. The fact is, however, that practically everyone who actually studies the evidence with an open mind finds a distinct faunal succession over long ages to be a realistic and compelling interpretation of the fossil layers because their order of appearance all over the world is generally so reliable.


    Re: “Many would claim your response was not truthful, especially in the dating of the Cambrian time period which you put at about 60 million years. That is the largest length I have heard. Most range between 5 and 30 million.” – – – – “The Cambrian was the first geological period of the Paleozoic Era, lasting from 541 to 485.4 million years ago (mya)” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cambrian That’s 55.6 million years, which rounds to 60 million.

    Re: “Concerning the nature of the fossil record, here are some quotes from notable scientists in the field including S. J. Gould…………” These quotes by e.g. Gould and Eldredge are from Problem 5 of Luskin’s series ( http://www.evolutionnews.org/2015/01/problem_5_abrup091141.html )
    It is possible to “prove” nearly anything by deliberately taking quotes out of context. In my previous comment, I explained to you in detail why it is dishonest to present these quotes in isolation, without acknowledging to what the authors were referring. Here is what I wrote to you earlier:

    “ [these are] scary and misleading quotes, calculated to give the lay reader that impression that all these scientists agree that the fossil record should be regarded as essentially complete and since the required transitional fossils have not been found, we should conclude these transitional fossils never existed and therefore the fossil record refutes evolution. This is typical ID deceit in action. That is not at all what these scientists are saying.

    What they are saying is that the fossil record shows that for long periods of time a species or family can exist with only slow, gradual changes (“microevolution”), but there are transitions which occur much faster than that usual pace. Often these transitions leave no fossil record of the intermediates involved. Fifty years ago, this was a real head-scratcher for biologists, and some were so wedded to a constant rate of evolutionary change that they did not take the fossil evidence of alternately slow/rapid change as seriously as they should. Now, with advances in population genetics, this is readily understood. It has been shown theoretically and empirically that new genes (from mutations) have a low chance of becoming fixed in a large population, but a much higher chance in a small, isolated population. So relatively rapid evolutionary transitions will tend to occur in small, isolated populations, but these are likely to leave no fossil trace. (“Relatively rapid” means rapid compared to the normal glacial pace of change in a large population; it does not mean that a reptile lays an egg and suddenly out hatches a mammal). After a new species develops which is well-adapted and spreads out and becomes numerous, it is more likely to leave fossils and to appear fairly static. This is basic arithmetic, and explains the facts. But of course Luskin conceals all this from his readers, citing only the quotes from Gould and Eldredge which define the initial puzzle (slow vs. fast rates of change), and not any quotes describing the solution to that puzzle. “

    Since I had thus explained to you why it is misleading and deceitful to reproduce these quotes without fair context, I was surprised to see you yourself now reproducing these 35-year-old quotes without fair context. Perhaps you did not believe my description of things. Let’s hear from Gould and from Eldredge themselves. Here is an extended quote from Gould:

    “…transitions are often found in the fossil record. Preserved transitions are not common—and should not be, according to our understanding of evolution (see next section) but they are not entirely wanting, as creationists often claim. The lower jaw of reptiles contains several bones, that of mammals only one. The non-mammalian jawbones are reduced, step by step, in mammalian ancestors until they become tiny nubbins located at the back of the jaw. The “hammer” and “anvil” bones of the mammalian ear are descendants of these nubbins. How could such a transition be accomplished? the creationists ask. Surely a bone is either entirely in the jaw or in the ear. Yet paleontologists have discovered two transitional lineages of therapsids (the so-called mammal-like reptiles) with a double jaw joint—one composed of the old quadrate and articular bones (soon to become the hammer and anvil), the other of the squamosal and dentary bones (as in modern mammals). For that matter, what better transitional form could we expect to find than the oldest human, Australopithecus afarensis, with its apelike palate, its human upright stance, and a cranial capacity larger than any ape’s of the same body size but a full 1,000 cubic centimeters below ours? If God made each of the half-dozen human species discovered in ancient rocks, why did he create in an unbroken temporal sequence of progressively more modern features—increasing cranial capacity, reduced face and teeth, larger body size? Did he create to mimic evolution and test our faith thereby?
    Faced with these facts of evolution and the philosophical bankruptcy of their own position, creationists rely upon distortion and innuendo to buttress their rhetorical claim. If I sound sharp or bitter, indeed I am—for I have become a major target of these practices.
    I count myself among the evolutionists who argue for a jerky, or episodic, rather than a smoothly gradual, pace of change. In 1972 my colleague Niles Eldredge and I developed the theory of punctuated equilibrium. We argued that two outstanding facts of the fossil record—geologically “sudden” origin of new species and failure to change thereafter (stasis)—reflect the predictions of evolutionary theory, not the imperfections of the fossil record. In most theories, small isolated populations are the source of new species, and the process of speciation takes thousands or tens of thousands of years. This amount of time, so long when measured against our lives, is a geological microsecond. It represents much less than 1 per cent of the average life-span for a fossil invertebrate species—more than ten million years. Large, widespread, and well established species, on the other hand, are not expected to change very much. We believe that the inertia of large populations explains the stasis of most fossil species over millions of years.
    We proposed the theory of punctuated equilibrium largely to provide a different explanation for pervasive trends in the fossil record. Trends, we argued, cannot be attributed to gradual transformation within lineages, but must arise from the different success of certain kinds of species. A trend, we argued, is more like climbing a flight of stairs (punctuated and stasis) than rolling up an inclined plane.
    Since we proposed punctuated equilibria to explain trends, it is infuriating to be quoted again and again by creationists—whether through design or stupidity, I do not know—as admitting that the fossil record includes no transitional forms. Transitional forms are generally lacking at the species level, but they are abundant between larger groups. Yet a pamphlet entitled “Harvard Scientists Agree Evolution Is a Hoax” states: “The facts of punctuated equilibrium which Gould and Eldredge…are forcing Darwinists to swallow fit the picture that Bryan insisted on, and which God has revealed to us in the Bible.”
    Continuing the distortion, several creationists have equated the theory of punctuated equilibrium with a caricature of the beliefs of Richard Goldschmidt, a great early geneticist. Goldschmidt argued, in a famous book published in 1940, that new groups can arise all at once through major mutations. He referred to these suddenly transformed creatures as “hopeful monsters.” (I am attracted to some aspects of the non-caricatured version, but Goldschmidt’s theory still has nothing to do with punctuated equilibrium—see essays in section 3 and my explicit essay on Goldschmidt in The Pandas Thumb.) “ [end of long Gould quote]

    Gould specifically addresses the misrepresentation of his work by YE creationists who were distorting his words to make it seem like he was admitting there were hardly any transitional fossils: “…transitions are often found in the fossil record. Preserved transitions are not common—and should not be, according to our understanding of evolution (see next section) but they are not entirely wanting, as creationists often claim………………. creationists rely upon distortion and innuendo to buttress their rhetorical claim. If I sound sharp or bitter, indeed I am—for I have become a major target of these practices………………..Since we proposed punctuated equilibria to explain trends, it is infuriating to be quoted again and again by creationists—whether through design or stupidity, I do not know—as admitting that the fossil record includes no transitional forms. Transitional forms are generally lacking at the species level, but they are abundant between larger groups…”.

    Gould published this in 1981, so Luskin was perfectly aware that is dishonest to keep recycling these quotes by Gould and Gould’s partner Eldredge as though they posed some sort of problem for evolution. But it seems that Luskin would rather cite a juicy-sounding quote that appeared to support his position than to treat his material with integrity.

    Eldredge has also made his meanings clear. A key insight of his was that the fossil record does not show a smooth, steady pace of change like older paleologists (and probably Darwin) expected. Rather, species tended to persist with little change, to be replaced in the fossil record with the next (often similar) species. At first that puzzled him, but then he realized this pattern would follow naturally from the relatively rapid changes (e.g. evolution of a new species within say 50,000 years) in small, isolated populations which are unlikely to leave fossils:

    “ I found a very ready source of explanation staring me right in the face. I found it in Dobzhansky’s and Mayr’s work on species and the nature of the speciation process, specifically the derivation of descendant species from ancestral species through geographic isolation. Thus developed the combination of pattern and process that Steve Gould and I called “punctuated equilibria” . . . Speciation, the fragmentation of an ancestral species into two or more descendants, is a component of the evolutionary process. It takes speciation, it seems, to break the stranglehold of stasis, providing the context for lasting evolutionary change. Punctuated equilibria is simply the notion of speciation applied as the explanation for evolutionary change interrupting vastly longer periods of monotonous stasis. It should have been noncontroversial. It wasn’t.”
    Niles Eldredge, Reinventing Darwin: The Great Debate at the High Table of Evolutionary Theory (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1995 pp. 96-97)

    Finally, let’s look at the particular Eldredge quote which you reproduced: “The record jumps, and all the evidence shows that the record is real: the gaps we see reflect real events in life’s history — not the artifact of a poor fossil record.” In isolation and out of context, that seems like a devastating admission by a leading evolutionary paleontologist that in general the gaps in the fossil record cannot be explained away by a poor fossil record. Except…..that is a dishonest presentation, because that was not what Eldredge and Tattersall were talking about here. Let’s check out the full quote:

    “ One striking aspect of these extinction/rebound episodes in life’s history is the extraordinary rapidity with which they occur. The Cretaceous extinction about 65 million years ago, which took away the last of the dinosaurs, and perhaps as much as 90 percent of all the other forms of Cretaceous life, took place within the span of a million years. Now, a million years is certainly a long period of time by some standards, but it is an eyeblink in geologic history. Events occurring within less than a million years’ time can create patterns of abrupt change in the fossil record: in many places around the world, fossils can be traced up into the highest layers of Cretaceous rocks when, all of a sudden, they just disappear. And the rocks immediately above preserve representatives of the initial repopulation, life’s rebound after the collapse. The record jumps, and all the evidence shows that the record is real: the gaps we see reflect real events in life’s history – not the artifact of a poor fossil record.” [ Eldredge, N. and Tattersall, I., The Myths of Human Evolution Columbia University Press, 1982 ]

    The subject here was extinction events, not transitional fossils. As they often did elsewhere, the authors here were arguing against the notion that all evolution continued at the same slow, steady pace throughout all of geologic time. Eldredge’s point was that the fossil record shows there can be episodes where a different community of organisms replaces the previous community in a relatively short time. “In a relatively short time” here does not mean instantaneously, but “within less than a million years’ time”. After the bulk of earlier species gets killed off, a different set of species evolves relatively rapidly from the few survivors of the extinction ( “life’s rebound after the collapse”). They were not saying or implying that the gaps between any one species or genus and the next could not be explained by an imperfect fossil record. They were saying that for the overall community of organisms, the fossil record is sufficiently complete to be sure that there were in fact widespread extinctions followed by relatively rapid appearance of a differing community of organisms.

    I hope you can now see that it is misleading and deceitful to reproduce these Gould and Eldredge quotes without fair context, as though they pose a challenge to evolution. ID authors like Luskin continue to do so, which qualifies their writings as propaganda rather than genuine scientific research.

    If we wanted to do dueling quotes from scientists, there are plenty that stress the presence of transitional forms, e.g. “So many intermediate forms have been discovered between fish and amphibians, between amphibians and reptiles, between reptiles and mammals, and along the primate lines of descent that it often is difficult to identify categorically when the transition occurs from one to another particular species.” [Science, Evolution, and Creationism by the National Academy of Sciences]

    Re: “At the very least, I believe it is not honest to say that fossil record is incomplete as statement of fact.”
    Let’s check the facts here.
    (A) Very, very few of all the organisms that have died in past eons become fossilized. As we can observe today, nearly all carcasses rot or are eaten by scavengers rather than being buried intact in rock layers. Of the remains that do get fossilized, many are later eroded away if the rocks in which they are embedded are raised above sea level. If these rocks become deeply buried, the fossils can become smeared beyond recognition in metamorphic transformations. This is even more of an issue for older rock layers, such as the Paleozoic era (Cambrian through Permian periods), since they have had more time to be either raised up to the surface for erosion or to be buried more deeply. Also, of all the potential fossil-bearing rocks, only a small fraction is available in surface exposures for paleontologists to examine.

    ( B) As Wikipedia [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fossil ] points out, “The number of species known through the fossil record is less than 5% of the number of known living species, suggesting that the number of species known through fossils must be far less than 1% of all the species that have ever lived.” No fossils have yet been found for about a third of the 30+ phyla of living animals.
    Points (A) and (B) furnish compelling general scientific reasons to believe that the fossil record is incomplete. Now let’s look at some specific examples which demonstrate this.

    The Coelacanth order of fishes furnishes a classic example of the fickleness of the fossil record. These fish were once widespread in the ancient seas. Coelacanths peaked in the fossil record about 240 million years ago, and then declined. The most recent known fossil dates back to about 80 million years ago. It was thought that they had become extinct. In 1938, however, a live coelacanth was discovered in the Indian Ocean. Since then a number of others have been caught. Unless we are prepared to claim that an Intelligent Agent supernaturally re-created these modern coelacanths, we must acknowledge that some population of these fish has existed for the past 80 million years but without leaving a trace in the fossil record.

    If the fossil record is incomplete, we should expect to observe other gaps like this in the fossil record for particular species or families of organisms. And we do observe such gaps: Here is a list of some other “Lazarus taxa” which disappear from the fossil record for millions of years, but appear again later:
    • Chacoan peccary (Catagonus wagneri), known only from fossils before its discovery in 1975.[5]
    • Coelacanth (Latimeria), a member of a subclass (Actinistia) thought to have gone extinct 66 million years ago; live specimens found in 1938.
    • Nightcap oak (Eidothea hardeniana and E. zoexylocarya), representing a genus previously known only from fossils 15 to 20 million years old, were recognized in 1995 and 2000, respectively.
    • Gracilidris, a genus of dolichoderine ants thought to have gone extinct 15-20 million years ago was found in Paraguay, Brazil, and Argentina and described in 2006.
    • Laotian rock rat (Laonastes aenigmamus), a member of a family (Diatomyidae) thought to have gone extinct 11 million years ago; found in 1996.[6]
    • Majorcan midwife toad (Alytes muletensis), described from fossil remains in 1977, living animals discovered in 1979.
    • Dawn redwood (Metasequoia), a genus of conifer, was first described as a fossil from the Mesozoic Era by Shigeru Miki in 1941, but in 1944 a small stand was discovered in China in Modaoxi by Zhan Wang.
    • Monito del monte (Dromiciops), a member of a clade (Microbiotheria) thought to have gone extinct 11 million years ago.
    • Monoplacophora, a class of molluscs believed to have gone extinct in the middle Devonian Period (c. 380 million years ago) until living members were discovered in deep water off Costa Rica in 1952.
    • Mountain pygmy possum (Burramys parvus), Australia’s only truly hibernating marsupial, known originally from the fossil record and then discovered in 1966.
    • Schinderhannes bartelsi, a Devonian member of Anomalocarididae, a family previously known only from Cambrian fossils, 100 million years earlier.
    • Wollemi pine (Wollemia), a species previously known only from fossils from 2 to 90 million years old representing a new genus of Araucariaceae, was discovered in 1994.
    [ from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lazarus_taxon ; see also the “Lazarus taxa reflect the sporadic nature of the fossil record” graphic on that Wikipedia page for examples of gaps within the fossil record for a number of animals, ranging from 61 to 385 million years]

    Unless God has supernaturally recreated all these species to fool us into thinking evolution is true, we must conclude that they have been in existence across millions of years but without leaving a fossil trace during those years. Thus it is honest to say that fossil record is incomplete as statement of fact. With each passing decade, paleontologists find hundreds of significant new fossils, proving that the known fossil record of the previous decade was incomplete.

    I would be interested if you know of scientific evidence (hard data, not more quotations) that the known fossil record of today is an essentially complete representation of all the organisms that ever lived on the earth.

    Re: “ Floods are known to produce smaller scale grand canyons like the Burlingame Canyon near Walla Walla, Washington in only 6 days. There is great evidence for my beliefs, and it is evidence I can watch happen. “
    YE creationist examples of rapid erosion typically involve soft, unconsolidated ground, not hard solid rock like the Grand Canyon. If the Burlingame Canyon had formed in solid rock in six days, it might be impressive. But the ground in that area is underlain by largely unconsolidated layers of sediment (the Touchet Formation) from a glacial lake, so this canyon is just a big gully. To his credit, in his article touting the Burlingame Canyon John Morris acknowledged the softness of the ground here:
    “The eroded strata consisted of rather soft sand and clay which was saturated by the recent rains. The dewatering of the saturated sediments into the now-open ditch enhanced the erosion. The rapidly moving water could dislodge the particles and carry them downstream, leaving underlying sediments vulnerable to further erosion.” https://answersingenesis.org/geology/natural-features/a-canyon-in-six-days/

    Regarding the firmament of Genesis 1 . .. .
    Re: “ if the firmament separated the waters above and below then it would be impossible to inhabit the space between them.” I agree, it seems likely that at the instant of the separation the upper and lower (liquid) waters were probably right up against the upper and the lower surfaces of the firmament. Exactly when the air under the firmament appeared is not stated. It could well have been part of the massive movements of Genesis 1:9, where the waters below the heavens were gathered into one place and the dry land appeared.
    Re: “He wraps up the waters in his clouds, yet the clouds do not burst under their weight.” Job 26:7. I agree, that the Old Testament seems to show awareness of a hydrological cycle going on beneath the firmament, e.g. Eccles 1:7, and the association of clouds with ordinary rain. The only time I am aware of water pouring down through the firmament was the case of Noah’s Flood where some unusual physical things occurred to cause the entire earth to be submerged in water (“In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened.” Gen 7:11)

    Re: “Slavery in the bible was indentured servitude. This would almost be the same as having a job today except society was different back then in terms of employment you might say. the point is that they willfully worked as slaves.” I agree that that was largely true for male Israelite slaves under the Law of Moses.
    However, that was not remotely true of slavery in the first century Roman empire, which was the context of Paul’s letters. Personal slaves of Roman aristocrats and educated Greek slaves who manned the Roman civil service were generally treated well and might have some chance for eventual freedom. Rarely, in desperation, a man might sell himself into slavery. But the vast majority of slaves had been seized as captives or kidnapped by pirates or other slave traders, or were born of slaves who had never been freed. When the Romans defeated Corinth in 146 B.C., for instance, they massacred all the men, burned the city to the ground, and sold the women and children into slavery. Rome had a voracious appetite for slaves. Millions toiled, sometimes in fetters, on vast agricultural estates or hauling stone for public works, with no hope of deliverance. Masters had the power to beat, kill and rape their slaves. Runaways could be punished by crucifixion. So this was no indentured servitude. As the centuries wore on and with increased Christian influence, the lot of slaves in the Empire improved, but we are talking about the institution in the time of Paul.

    Paul gives commands to masters which are remarkably humane for that era, i.e. to treat them fairly and even as brothers. However, he never questions the institution of slavery itself. Paul is not shy about telling people what to do, but he does not write, “Masters, it is unjust to hold and own a man who was likely seized against his will, sold naked at the auction block, and now is held captive in your house or shop. No, you should offer freedom to any slave who wishes it. Indeed, since you have profited by his labor all these years, it would be right for you to give him a gift to help him travel back to his homeland or to set up his own household.” Paul’s acceptance of Roman slavery allowed Christian slaveholders in the American South to defend their practice against the abolitionists: what could possibly be wrong with buying and owning another man and exploiting his labor, as long as you fed and clothed him? With slavery as with all other subjects, Paul would naturally believe what everyone else around him believed and accepted, except for those areas where God gave him specific revelation or where other apostles passed along what they had learned from the Lord.

    Re: “ Paul told the women to in Corinth to wear this veil because it was part of their culture that showed submission to God.”
    I think we agree that on the main point here, that it is appropriate for us to use our reasoning and our knowledge that ancient and modern beliefs differed, to justify setting aside what seems in the Bible text like an unambiguous and authoritative statement. So I don’t think the exact resolution of I Cor 11:1-16 is too important.

    That said, it is not clear to me that the solution you offered is the correct one. I looked at the http://www.gotquestions.org/head-coverings.html link you recommended. A key premise of that article is that “In the Corinthian culture, women normally wore a head covering as a symbol of their submission to their husbands” . A problem is that this premise may not be true. Veils were worn by women in the Middle East (e.g. Judea and Syria), but not necessarily routinely in Greece (where Corinth was located) or in Rome. After being destroyed in 146 B.C., Corinth was rebuilt a hundred years later as a thoroughly Roman city. We have all seen pictures of Greek vases and Roman frescoes depicting respectable matrons, and often they are bare-headed. Here, for instance, http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/image?img=1992.11.0076&type=vase&redirect=true
    is a Greek vase showing women celebrating the rite of Dionysius, with uncovered heads. So it does not seem true that it was a Greek custom for women to cover their heads as a sign of submission to God or the gods.

    The most thorough examination of this issue that I am aware of is by Michael Marlowe, http://www.bible-researcher.com/headcoverings3.html
    He notes, “…. But the Greek headcovering customs for women during the first century are hard to determine with any degree of certainty. In the past, some biblical expositors casually asserted that all respectable Greek women wore headcoverings, and that among the Greeks (as among the Jews) only disreputable women went about with bare heads. But there does not seem to be any good evidence for this in ancient sources…… Ovid (43 b.c.–a.d. 17), in the generation preceding Paul, provides an impressive testimony to the sad state of Roman morals in his book Ars Amatoria (The Art of Love), with much explicit discussion of female dress, hairstyles and cosmetics. His advice to ladies concerning hairstyles and wigs would be pointless if the ladies went out with their heads covered. If Ovid’s representation of Roman society is at all accurate, (10) it is hard to believe that there was any strict observance of headcovering customs in daily life. (Likewise the Apostle Paul’s remark about braided hair in 1 Timothy 2:9 implies that in his experience women prided themselves on elaborate hairstyles, which is impossible with a headcovering.) Regarding the customs observed by the middle class, we note that it is not unusual to see merchant women portrayed without headcoverings in ancient Roman art… A further difficulty with all the “cultural accomodation” explanations for Paul’s headcovering rule is that Paul himself offers no explanations for it along those lines. He gives other reasons. It should be noted that Paul gives no indication in any of his Epistles that he would recommend mere conformity to Greek customs as an acceptable principle of conduct for Christians”

    Marlowe notes elsewhere http://www.bible-researcher.com/headcoverings.html
    , “To summarize the matter briefly here, I will only say that there is not enough evidence in ancient sources to conclude that Paul is advising conformity to Corinthian customs in this passage. On the contrary, ancient sources indicate that Greek women commonly participated in religious ceremonies without headcoverings. Nor does it seem that he is advising conformity to Jewish customs, in which women hid their faces in public. …He is certainly not advising conformity to Roman customs of his day, in which male priests normally covered their heads for ceremonies. But clearly he is urging the Corinthians to observe an established custom of the Church.”

    If Paul were really appealing to established local custom, he could easily have made that clear and saved a bit of ink. He could have written, “You wives all know you should be cover your heads, so do it.” But instead he argues from everything but local custom. He argues from the Adam and Eve story, from “nature itself”, his own authority, and from the custom of other churches. He obviously expects resistance from the Corinthians, as he concludes with, “But if anyone seems to be contentious, we have no such custom, nor do the churches of God”. That is just the opposite of what we’d expect if he were just urging them to be consistent in observing established local custom.

    If Paul were concerned for wives in general to honor their husbands and demonstrate their submission, we would expect him direct them to wear veils whenever they were outside the home, or at least whenever they came to church. Instead, he is extremely specific about the necessity for women to cover their heads when actively “praying or prophesying”.

    It is significant that Paul starts and ends his passage with reference to other churches. He introduces the subject by reminding them of the virtues of keeping “the traditions just as I delivered them to you” (v. 1). The language here resembles that of I Cor 15:3, “For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received ….” . There it referred Paul’s passing along to the Corinthians what he had gotten from the original Christians in Judea. This suggested that in 11:1 Paul is noting that he is not inventing the veiling command, but rather he is passing along the practice of the earliest congregations in Palestine. This interpretation fits with how he concludes this passage, “we have no such custom, nor do the churches of God” (11:16). Presumably “the churches of God” means the other Christian congregations of his day throughout the Roman Empire, especially those established by the earlier apostles. Thus, it was standard Christian practice in the first century, regardless of local customs, for women to cover their heads while praying to God.

    All this has led some evangelical Christians to rethink whether they can so easily dismiss Paul’s firm and clear command for women to cover their heads in church, leading to a new “Head-Covering Movement” . Reformed teacher R. C. Spoul notes, “ The wearing of fabric head coverings in worship was universally the practice of Christian women until the twentieth century. What happened? Did we suddenly find some biblical truth to which the saints for thousands of years were blind? Or were our biblical views of women gradually eroded by the modern feminist movement that has infiltrated the Church…? “

    So here, as with so many other issues, sincere Christians can look at the same text and come to very differing conclusions.

    Re: “I am not sure where God comes into play in theistic evolution because everything is natural and random. I would need clarification because very honestly it never made sense to me. ID theory would state that God intervenes, and so they do not reject common descent. Rather they doubt Darwinian mechanisms. I have read that theistic evolution is similar but where the differences are I’m not sure.”
    Good questions. I’ll just speak for myself, but I think my views are widely shared by theistic evolutionists. I think problems arise with the word “natural”. Atheists can use this word to mean, “occurs apart from God.” To me, things that occur according to regular, predictable patterns are not outside the will and control of God. If He wills to have the “laws” of physics apply everywhere, so be it. The word “random” is also tricky. It can mean “just too complicated to practically predict” like the flip of a coin (where in theory if you knew the starting conditions in enough detail you could physically model it) or it can refer to something like when a specific uranium atom will split, which is completely unknowable. In either case, I do not see these events as outside of God’s control. In the Bible, it was assumed that God would make sure that the right result would occur when the lot was cast. In all these cases, there is no miraculous intervention involved. How exactly God’s will gets done is a mystery and a matter of ongoing discussion. I think God is capable of setting up the initial conditions of the universe so it will unfold as He wishes.

    I trust that the right genetic mutations occur according to His will, similar to all the other seemingly random events in this world. Although the probability of obtaining the particular genome which I have is infinitesimal, that’s what I have. So I see mutations and selection as much under God’s providential control as anything else. I think a key area where you and I would disagree is whether miraculous intervention is required to get macroevolution to move along. We have already stated our positions, so I will not revisit them now. I have no problem with the notion of God supernaturally making a mutation occur, but I see no need of it, and this god-of-the-gaps approach usually ends badly.

    Re: “I do not agree that there is great evidence for deep time” I appreciate your candor here, but this indicates to me that you are sufficiently alienated from modern science that we will just be talking past one another if we continue. It has been stimulating, and I wish you well.

  13. Pingback: Nog iets over dino-plaatjes, creationistische claims en ‘soft tissue’ in dinosauriërbotten | verantwoording en vrijheid

  14. Don Helland MD says:

    “Spectroscopic Studies on Organic Matter from Triassic Reptile Bones, Upper Silesia, Poland”

    Interesting article. These dino bones were 247 million years old.

    At what point do you throw in the towel and ask “What is really going on here?”

    • Don,
      That article describes evidence for amino acid fragments, lipids, and amide bonds amongst iron oxide deposited where blood vessel walls used to be, deep within bones where they were protected from bacterial attack. No flexible tissue, and no claims of long, well-defined protein sequences. There is nothing especially remarkable about this observation despite its age. Certainly no other academics have risen up to challenge it, unlike the furor around Schweitzer’s 2007 paper claiming protein sequences in T Rex.

      Lipids (see: petroleum) easily survive for hundreds of millions of years, and amino acids are likewise extremely stable. Amino acids, lipids, and other organics have been found in meteorites dated over 4 billion years old. One study estimated, for instance, the half-life of glycine decomposition to be over a billion years. [Alexandrova and Jorgensen, “On the mechanism and rate of spontaneous decomposition of amino acids”, 2011]. Whatever these organic fragments are, they are only present in substantial amounts in the iron oxide film that defines where the blood vessels used to be. Schweitzer’s work has already shown a very strong effect of iron in stabilizing protein fragments, in solution chemistry. Here, the organics are further stabilized by being adsorbed within a solid iron oxide matrix, which might have helped to preserve some peptide (amide) bonds.

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  16. Pingback: Surprise: Dinosaur Soft Tissue - Reality Bullseye

  17. Scott Buchanan

    AiG appear to be attacking your article (among others); about to take a closer look:

    • Ashley, thanks for the tip. I’ll check it out. Best to you…

      Hmm, looks like the usual YE creationist nonsense – – ignoring the fact that protein degradation rates vary wildly depending on conditions, and pretending that radiogenic dating is not a generally reliable method.

      • KAnderson says:

        Protein degradation rates do vary … but in a very predictable manner. These rates are not random, they are condition-dependent. Experimental work shows that collagen degrades within about one million years, even under ideal conditions. As conditions become less than ideal (e.g., buried bone) the rate of degradation increases and the time would be even less than one million years. So, exactly what “fact” was I ignoring?

      • Response to KAnderson:

        You are ignoring the facts that are right there in this article:

        ( 1 ) Adding hemoglobin to ostrich vessels slowed their rate of decomposition by a factor of at least 240.

        ( 2 ) The face on a corpse can completely decay away in a month, but the Tolland Bog Man’s face is largely intact after 2200 years. That was a surprise to his first discoverers (they thought he was a recent murder victim). This is a difference in decay rates of at least 25,000.

        I did not say that decay rates vary randomly, rather, that they can vary wildly, depending on conditions, as these examples show. As acknowledged in the article, some studies indicate that proteins can essentially disappear in a million years under some conditions. But because tissue decay rates are subject to such enormous variations from factors which would not necessarily be predicted ahead of time, the realistic approach is to be cautious in asserting that proteins cannot possibly survive for X million years under some other conditions.

        In contrast to this demonstrated variability in biological decay rates, nuclear decay rates have been measured many times in many ways and in general found to be steady and reproducible. (I realize YE creationists try to dispute this, and I am not going to re-argue all that here – – see discussion in the article, including the Appendix on radiocarbon dating of fossils). Since radioactive decay rates are steady and biological decay rates can vary enormously, obviously we should rely on radioactive dating of the rock layers to determine the ages of fossils in these layers, rather than speculating about biological decay rates.

        I will add that I assume that you are trying to uphold the interpretation of the Bible as you understand it, and I respect that underlying motivation.

  18. This was the email I sent:

    https://answersingenesis.org/fossils/dinosaur-tissue/ (Mary Schweitzer and Reasons to Believe FAO Fazale Rana are copied in; I’ve already also briefly commented about this piece at Scott Buchanan’s ‘Letters to Creationists’.)

    Other than that it is dated 20 October 2016, I see nothing ‘new’ (but also nothing ‘not old’ geological time wise) in this latest AiG ‘reassurance’ article on one of their favourite science denial topics – dinosaurs and when they lived.

    The article refers to preserved tissue that has been discovered in some dinosaur fossils. It goes on to politely attack part of a new book by OEC Christian Fazale Rana (they do not quote his exact words and I cannot find them), politely attack the ‘iron model’ for prolonged preservation (I don’t claim to be qualified/sufficiently knowledgeable to critique Kevin Anderson’s response), and politely attack one part of a recent ‘Letters to Creationists’ blog post by TE Christian Buchanan on dinosaur soft tissue.

    One issue that the article fails to address is this one, which is set out at the end of the Buchanan article (and also at the slightly out-of-date RationalWiki page that is also referenced):
    “The absence of long, sequenceable chains of DNA in any dinosaur fossils indicates that these fossils are much older than the 6000-4500 year age allowable in young earth creationism.”

    I also note ‘bird’ references within the abstracts of the two scientific papers that are flagged at footnotes 8 and 25:

    “We present multiple lines of evidence that endogenous proteinaceous material is preserved in bone fragments and soft tissues from an 80-million-year-old Campanian hadrosaur, Brachylophosaurus canadensis[Museum of the Rockies (MOR) 2598]. Microstructural and immunological data are consistent with preservation of multiple bone matrix and vessel proteins, and phylogenetic analyses of Brachylophosaurus collagen sequenced by mass spectrometry robustly support the bird-dinosaur clade, consistent with an endogenous source for these collagen peptides.”

    “The persistence of original soft tissues in Mesozoic fossil bone is not explained by current chemical degradation models. We identified iron particles (goethite-αFeO(OH)) associated with soft tissues recovered from two Mesozoic dinosaurs, using transmission electron microscopy, electron energy loss spectroscopy, micro-X-ray diffraction and Fe micro-X-ray absorption near-edge structure. Iron chelators increased fossil tissue immunoreactivity to multiple antibodies dramatically, suggesting a role for iron in both preserving and masking proteins in fossil tissues. Haemoglobin (HB) increased tissue stability more than 200-fold, from approximately 3 days to more than two years at room temperature (25°C) in an ostrich blood vessel model developed to test post-mortem ‘tissue fixation’ by cross-linking or peroxidation.”

    Buchanan, again, adds:
    “The traces of DNA fragments in Schweitzer’s fossils matched more closely to modern birds than to modern reptiles. The same held true for sequences of proteins. These trends conform to evolutionary expectations, since most biologists hold that today’s birds are direct descendants of dinosaurs, whereas today’s alligators are more distant cousins.”

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  20. Adam says:

    You make a great deal of radiometric dating. So, why hasn’t testing been conducted on this famous t-rex sample? Did you know that numerous dinosaur samples have been tested, and all return ages of <40k years BPE? Of course, those tests were done by creationists, so you can just disregard them, right? If a dinosaur bone contains soft tissue, it contains carbon. If it contains carbon, it isn't 66 million years old, based on our present assumptions about C14 decay rates. Seems you've painted yourself into a corner, with your claims that radioactive decay rates have always been perfectly constant…

    • Adam,

      Since you bring it up, yes, there are excellent reasons to disregard tests done by creationists, especially in the area of radiogenic dating. Again and again they have conducted tests that violated obvious physical limitations of the method, simply in order to get the results they want.

      Let’s look at two examples, both from rocks of the Grand Canyon.

      Bogus Example 1.
      YE creationist geologist Andrew Snelling collected a number of whole rock samples from several different outcrops of the Brahma Schist, a heavily metamorphosed layer in the Vishnu complex at the very bottom of the Inner Gorge. This layer is believed by mainstream geologists to have solidified around 1.75 billion years ago, and was then subjected to partial re-melting and other transformations around 1.7 billion years ago. Snelling sent these samples off to two laboratories for measurements of the concentrations of various isotopes, in order to apply several methods of radiometric dating.
      When he plotted up the isochrons, they yielded estimates of 1.24 billion years for the Rb-Sr system, 1.65 billion years for Samarium-Neodymium, and 1.88 billion years for Lead-Lead. The Potassium-Argon dating results were all over the map, ranging from 0.4 to 2.6 billion years. Snelling trumpets these results as confirming that radiogenic dating does not work at all. He claims, “These results are a devastating ‘blow’ to the concept of long ages, foundational to uniformitarian geology and evolutionary biology.” The “inescapable conclusion ,” according to Snelling, is that “the radioisotope methods simply do not yield reliable ages.”

      But anyone know understands radiogenic dating would know from this description why Snelling’s work is bogus. By using whole rock samples (instead of individual minerals) from heavily metamorphosed (reheated) rocks, Snelling virtually guaranteed that he would get flaky results. Even so, apart from the most vulnerable Potassium-Argon results, the three isochron methods all gave results in the 1.2-1.9 billion year range, which is in the ballpark of the mainstream 1.7 billion year dating, and far from a 6000 year old earth.
      Snelling’s policy was to produce bad results, and thereby mislead the lay reader into thinking that radioisotopic dating is fundamentally unreliable. Snelling has been confronted with his error. One reader of his original Answers in Genesis article wrote in to complain:

      “Andrew Snelling’s article in the June 2005 issue is irresponsible in that it uses technical jargon that an untrained lay-person would believe to be truth when he (as a PhD in Geology) should understand the fact that different radioisotope systems behave differently during different geologic processes. The worst system to use is K-Ar in a rock that has been metamorphosed. Ar is a noble gas that resides weakly in the crystal lattice of minerals. It has been shown many timeas that it is easy to lose Argon during metamorphism or subsequent disturbances and occasionally there is excess Argon that gives spuriously older ages for rocks. Rb-Sr is another method that is difficult to interpret when there is evidence of thermal events. These elements have been shown to be mobile (acting as an open system) during tectonic events. These are just two examples of the problems….there are many more!”

      Snelling’s response to this critique is informative. He did not repent in the least. He continued to maintain that his work demonstrated “problems” with radiogenic dating: “[this letter] has only confirmed what we already knew: that there are many problems in trying to use the different radioisotope systems to date rocks!”

      Note the deceptive power of the half-truth here: it is true that he applied radiogenic dating methods to a set of rocks, and it is true that they gave flaky results. By not telling the rest of the story (that he chose methods that were known to be inappropriate for these samples), he sets the stage for deceiving the public as to the general reliability of radiogenic dating.
      * * * * * * * ** * * **

      Bogus Example 2.
      Another YE creationist, Stephen Austin, did radiometric dating in 1992 of some of the relatively recent (less than 1 million years) lava flows to the north of the Canyon. Like Snelling in the example above, the way he did his sampling guaranteed false results. Instead of sampling individual minerals in a single lava flow, he did mainly whole-rock measurements from four or five different (not co-genetic) lava flows. This approach could not possibly yield the times of the lava flows themselves. If it gave any meaningful results at all, it would yield a date for the most recent homogenization of the deep (mantle) source of the lava, which could well be more than a billion years ago. The paper trail shows that Austin was completely aware ahead of time that the way he did his experiments would yield a false isochron and an excessively old age for the lavas.

      Austin’s measurements yielded a date of 1.3 billion years, which is much older than 1 million years and even older than the deeply buried 1.1 billion year old Cardenas basalt layer. He then claims that this result somehow casts doubt on radiogenic dating as a whole: “The observation that obviously recent lava flows from the north rim of Grand Canyon give ages even older than the deeply buried lava flows, challenges the basic assumptions upon which the isochron dating method is based.”

      Note again the deceptive partial truths. The partial truths are that he made radioisotopic measurements on some lavas, and the calculated date was much older than the expected dates of those lava flows. The “rest of the story” is that Austin’s flawed methodology guaranteed a date much older than the actual lava flows, so in reality his results do not pose any challenge to the assumptions of isochron dating.

      See https://letterstocreationists.wordpress.com/grand-canyon-creation/
      for references on these.
      * ** ** ** ** * ** * ** ** ** ** ** * * ** ** * *
      The partial truths are all that get transmitted to the YE creationist blogosphere. Organizations such as the Institute for Creation Research, Creation Research Society, and Answers in Genesis have sponsored and publicized several such bogus studies of radiometric dating, whose purpose is to sow doubt. These studies are then passed along by eager believers who like the conclusions and who lack the training to critically evaluate them. These misleading studies by Snelling and Austin have served their purpose well; I have seen dozens and dozens of citations by YE creationists of these two studies, as part of the overall contention that radiogenic dating is unreliable.

      And outside of radiogenic dating, I have investigated in some detail YE creationists claims that that salts in the ocean, the helium in the atmosphere, the decay of the earth’s magnetic field, etc. , etc. show that the earth is young, and in every case found they either misstated or ignored the full set of facts. (See https://letterstocreationists.wordpress.com/2015/01/03/evidences-for-a-young-earth/ for more on this).

      Given this consistent track-record of poorly done measurements and inaccurate handling of the facts, real scientists are well-justified in general to disregard studies done by YE creationists.
      ** ** ** ** *** *** ** * * * ** * *

      Specifically about C14 results – – yes, I am aware the YE creationists have submitted samples of dinosaur bone fossils to labs for C14 dating, which have often returned dates of 20,000-30,000 years. This is at odds with the 65+ million year old dating by methods such as Rb-Sr, U-Pb, and Ar/Ar. So the question we need to ask is: HOW DOES THE TRUSTWORTHINESS OF THESE C14 DATES COMPARE TO THE TRUSTWORTHINESS OF THE DATES OBTAINED BY DATING THE ROCK LAYERS THAT THE DINOSAUR FOSSILS WERE FOUND IN?

      With most of the rock-dating methods, there is (a) reasonably high concentrations of the parent and daughter elements to work with and (b) little chance of contamination from the environment. For instance, the air and water around us environment is not chock-full of Rb or Sr or U or Pb , and so there is not much of a chance that adventitious Rb or Sr or U or Pb will penetrate into the minerals that contain these elements enough to alter the radiogenic dates. (Not to say this cannot possibly happen, but it is extremely unlikely; the fact that different dating methods nearly always give the same date for a given rock show that they are reliable). Ar is present at appreciable concentration (1%) in the atmosphere, but the Ar39/Ar40 method can detect whether atmospheric contamination has taken place.

      On the other hand, the air, the water, the soil, even down to deep rock layers, are all swimming in modern (i.e. relatively high C14) carbon. Anything buried in the ground is vulnerable to contamination, as is anything handled above ground. Even if researchers claim they took pains to avoid contamination, it is nearly impossible to avoid, except perhaps by really specialized experts. Moreover, the amount of C14 in overall carbon is tiny even for recent carbon, i.e one C14 atom in every 10 to the 12th power overall carbon atoms. Then as the C14 decays away, the amount of C14 in a genuine sample which is 20,000 years old get to be even smaller, to less than one C14 atom in ten trillion other carbon atoms. When a sample gets down to about 60,000 years old, the instrumentation cannot tell the difference between that and a billion years old — there is just too little C14 to work with. So anything that is older than 60,000 years old will give an apparent C14 date of between about 10,000 and 60,000 years, depending on how successful the researchers were in removing modern C14 contamination. That is the simple physical reality of the method. Thus, 70 million year old dino fossils are EXPECTED to give a C14 apparent date of between 10,000 and 60,000 years. Young earth creationists seem unable to tell the truth about this, since they pretend that the 20-30,000 C14 dates represent some sort of problem for an old earth.

      Thus, the C14 analysis of fossils which have been buried in the ground and handled above ground is intrinsically vulnerable to severe contamination issues, whereas the rock layer dating methods (Sr-Rb, etc.) are not.

      And that why, when these C14 measurements [which simply fail for really old objects] of dinosaur fossils produce results which are at odds with the radioactive dating of the rock minerals [a method which is good at dating really old objects], the rock dates are regarded by practicing scientists as being far, far more reliable than the C14 dates. If you are a YE creationist, you will likely continue to place stock in these C14 measurements, no matter what anyone says. I don’t blame you for that – – I understand the YE creationist mentality, since I used to be one.
      I wish you well.

  21. Douglas Depew says:

    Couldn’t God have created the Earth with antiquity? If you believe he created the heavens and the earth, all animals, plants, etc., they weren’t all created at birth, right?

    • Hi Douglas,
      This “appearance of age at creation” approach you suggest is self-consistent and does not involve lying about the physical evidence. There is no way to disprove it, and if it works for you, so be it. However, it has implications so troubling that YE creationists reject it in favor of their web of falsehoods.

      I sketched out some thoughts on Bible interpretation approaches here:
      , which you might want to look at.

      In that article I wrote this about the appearance of age scheme:
      A common perspective among my evangelical friends is the “Appearance of Age.” The notion here is that the world was created only a few thousand years ago, but it was created in a mature or developed form, so it appears to be ancient. Thus, a star a million light-years away was created along with the starlight occupying the line of sight from that star to earth, so that we can see that star now instead of waiting a million years for its light to reach us. Adam and Eve were created looking as if they had been born twenty years earlier, with navels. The rock layers look as if they formed over the course of hundreds of millions of years.

      What my friends fail to appreciate is that observations of rocks and stars show not just old-looking objects, but a whole detailed, interlocking history of events dating back billions of years. The fossil record shows a succession of species over the past half-billion years, as if they developed via evolution. The human genome contains many chunks of DNA that look as if they were injected by viruses millions of years in the past; chimpanzees share some of these same retrovirus sequences with us, making it look as if humans and chimps had a common ancestor. A supernovae was observed in 1987 , from a star 186,000 light-years away. This looks as if a real star really exploded 186,000 years ago, with an expanding ring of gases now visible.

      Also, the deception here would have to extend well past the initial “week” of creation. God would also have had to erase all traces of a world-engulfing Flood which killed all but eight humans and most terrestrial species and scoured the crust of the earth. This global cover-up would entail reworking all the surface rock layers to erase traces of the Flood; rejiggering the human genome to make it look as if the human race did not go through such a severe population bottleneck; transporting a bunch of marsupial mammals to Australia to make it look as if they evolved in place on that isolated continent; creating levels of apparently human artifacts, complete with sequential carbon dates, to make it look as if civilizations continued uninterrupted right through the Flood epoch (c. 2500 B.C.) in China, India, Egypt, and Mesopotamia; and thousands of other acts of duplicity.

      This “apparent age” viewpoint seems to solve the any conflict between the Bible and science, since it allows for a literal interpretation of Genesis while not disputing the physical evidence that points to an old Earth. It appeals to Christians who want to minimize contention over the subject of origins, and is less harmful than some other creation views. However, it makes God the author of deception on such a cosmic scale that we are left not knowing what is real. Maybe the whole universe, including our underlined Bibles, and us with our scars and our memories of things that never really happened, was all created just last night – with the apparent age viewpoint, you cannot tell.
      Best regards….

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  26. TR says:

    Hi Scott,

    Re your answer to Adam:

    “With most of the rock-dating methods, there is (a) reasonably high concentrations of the parent and daughter elements to work with and (b) little chance of contamination from the environment. For instance, the air and water around us environment is not chock-full of Rb or Sr or U or Pb , and so there is not much of a chance that adventitious Rb or Sr or U or Pb will penetrate into the minerals that contain these elements enough to alter the radiogenic dates”

    Do you believe that diamonds fit your standard of “little chance of contamination from the environment”.

    – TR

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