Author: Tom Shipley
The following scientific article is Mark Armitage’s, not mine. This is a very special publication for me because Mark Armitage and his legal case regarding his discriminatory job termination at California State University Northridge is the reason I am actively involved in the creation-evolution controversy. I am honored and very privileged to be the first to present this, Mark Armitage’s newest science article regarding soft dinosaur tissue and the age of the earth.
Any Christian or biblical creationist organization worth his/its weight in salt should recognize the significance and importance of this article and the absolute mandate and necessity of duplicating this article in every venue possible. To indulge in a little hyperbole, any creationist or creationist organization who will not publish or republish this article should be publicly flogged. This article deserves widespread dissemination and Mark is offering completely free use of this article without any restriction whatsoever.
This is a response to the book, “Dinosaur Blood and the Age of the Earth,” by Fuz Rana of the Reasons to Believe organization, headed by Hugh Ross. To tip my hand, I have begun working on a full-length response to Rana’s book myself and plan on presenting it as a series at this site. In Mark’s estimation, and in mine as well, this is the most significant scientific issue of our time. This issue is for biblical creationists what Jericho was for the Israelites. Anybody want to go on a seven day march with me? I think I feel a rumbling in the ground!
I will say no more, and yield the floor to Mark.
Dinosaur Blood and the Age of the Earth by Dr. Fazale Rana Bleeds Out and Dies on the Exam Table, by Mark Armitage, Micro Specialist, Thousand Oaks, California
Soft sheets of fibrillar bone and stunningly preserved osteocytes recovered from a Triceratops horn at Hell Creek MT cannot be explained by the interpretations tendered by Dr. Fazale Rana in his book. Dr. Rana’s obvious misunderstanding and mischaracterization of the Triceratops horn soft tissues are examined and corrected herein. More work must be done to explain the presence of these cells and tissues than has been done to date.
Keywords: Dinosaur, soft tissues, soft cells, Triceratops horn, iron preservation theory.
I am gratified for this opportunity to mount a critique of this book (Rana 2016) because it “kills two birds with one stone”:
-The book is essentially a recitation of the arguments presented by secular scientists to “explain” the presence of stunningly preserved soft dinosaur cells via previously unknown “mechanisms”. Therefore, an invalidation of these proposed “mechanisms” silences the secular community and puts the onus on them to do more careful work in trying to explain why these cells are here.
-The book is written by a back-sliding Christian who has abandoned a straightforward reading of Scripture, therefore an invalidation of his arguments puts the onus on him and all of his followers to accept the clear teaching of Scripture, and by Jesus Himself that the Earth, the cosmos and all that is in them was created rapidly and not so long ago (Ex 20:11).
This book appears to be a reply aimed at countering the recent avalanche of discoveries of soft tissues in dinosaur remains and to minimize the damage this seems to have on Rana’s ministry, Reasons to Believe.
The presence of endogenous molecules, proteins, sheets of fibrillar bone, intact blood vessels, and stunningly preserved dinosaur bone cells (osteocytes), is problematic for Rana and his followers. This is true because the life experience of the average person tells them intuitively that these things cannot be so. Dinosaur bones are “so old”, and they have been subject to “so much weathering, scavenging and other processes that must have accompanied the many millions of years of their existence,” that the average person knows that this is impossible.
By asking the question, “Who would believe it?” (Chapter 1, p. 14), Rana tries to identify with the incredulity of the average person, but he maintains that science really can explain these unexpected dinosaur tissues. This “science” is beyond the training of the average person, but Rana maintains that biochemists like himself are capable of explaining these things to the rest of us. My feeling is that most folks will be no better off by reading his arguments. I am sure that those who only need a superficial reinforcement will remain (ignorantly) convinced by his explanations, and the “iron preservation” theory has settled the matter. However, his “scientific” explanation has many errors of fact. Inasmuch as our ground-breaking, published work on soft dinosaur tissues (Armitage and Anderson 2013) is mischaracterized by Rana in several chapters, I believe I am qualified to respond to this book.
No Cause for Alarm?
Dr. Rana must tell his followers that there is nothing to be alarmed about regarding dinosaur soft tissues. He and Hugh Ross have built their ministry on the anti biblical and anti-scientific assumptions that the earth is billions of years old. He must explain to his wondering faithful that it is not unusual at all to recover such soft tissues from animals that died so very long ago, especially since we have now discovered the (previously unknown) reasons for their existence. Rana is committed to reinforcing deep time because he has made a decades-long devotion to it. Development of life on earth proceeded through mostly natural processes operating over deep time, according to Reasons to Believe. A simple analysis of the miracles Jesus performed shows that most were instantaneous, which is entirely consistent with a rapid creation over a 6-day period. Rana also represents that God stepped in periodically to help things along, which is another argument that runs counter to a straightforward reading of Scripture. If one is a committed evolutionist, the concept of God stepping in to “help” evolution is monumentally strange -the whole purpose of evolution is to explain life on a purely mechanistic basis. Even so, soft tissues in dinosaur bones have rocked the world of paleontology and represent a lit powder keg that he cannot ignore.
As if to downplay the glaringly obvious, Rana (2016) writes, “few people in the scientific community are impressed with this latest scientific argument” (Introduction, p. 11), that soft tissues means these remains are young. I can certainly tell you that biologists at California State University were impressed with the implied argument that soft tissues found in a cracked open, water-filled, Triceratops horn are detrimental to the deep time paradigm! As court documents from my lawsuit against the State of California now show, the very day our paper on soft tissues in Triceratops horn was published by Elsevier Publishing (at their online website) (Armitage and Anderson 2013), several powerful professors in the Biology Department met and decided to terminate my position. I ran a million-dollar microscopy suite for them to glowing reviews until, that is, we published stunning photos and details of exceptionally preserved bone cells and stretchy tissues in a well-respected journal (Armitage and Anderson, 2013). Suddenly my services were no longer needed. Moreover, very few scientists are working in the soft dinosaur tissue area, primarily because it is a career-killer, so contrary to what Rana says, many people in the scientific community see the obvious implications to soft dinosaur cells and tissues.
Dr. Rana (2016) claims that the purpose of his book is to help Christians understand why it makes sense from a “biochemist’s point of view” that soft tissue remains can be preserved in fossils which date to several hundred million years in age (p. 12). He claims that he understands the structure, function and stability of molecules, so he feels qualified to help prevent well-meaning (but perhaps ignorant) believers from “making a scientifically questionable argument for a young earth” (Rana 2016, 12). He also writes that a secondary goal of the book is to help Christians “overcome unnecessary obstacles to old earth creationism,” (Rana 2016, 13). That in fact is the real purpose of the book. The prevalent and almost daily discoveries of soft tissue in supposedly ancient remains is a wrecking ball, smashing holes in the edifice of old earth creationism.
Rana (2016) seems to applaud Dr. Mary Schweitzer’s comment, “…young earth creationists take my research and use it for their own message,” (Chapter 3, p. 39) (based on the 2014 Mary Schweitzer experiment [Schweitzer et al., 2014]). Interestingly, the exact opposite is true with respect to our published research. Although Rana (2016) seems to be ignorant of the implications of our work (and makes errors that I will address), I have led the way in proving that even under the harshest of conditions, soft tissue in the form of large sheets of fibrillar bone, fully exposed to the environment, can survive the ravages of even thousands of years (if that is the actual age of these remains) (Armitage 2015). My work shows conclusively that these remains must be young, otherwise they would not have survived the percolating water, the plant roots that ran through (and cracked) the horn, the large fungal mats, the bacteria, microbes, insects, and all of the other biological and physical conditions that buried remains are subjected to.
Therefore, as a result of my work, it is not inconceivable that Rana is losing membership support and donations. As a result of stunning soft dinosaur cell work that is taking the paleontology world by storm, Reasons to Believe might find itself in a flood of controversy and this book might be an attempt to stem that tide.
Taking YECs to Task
Regrettably I will be unable to comment on much of the book, which I find to be in error both scientifically and biblically. There are works in the literature that show Rana’s position to be wrong when it comes to Scripture (for example, Mortenson and Ury 2008). Therefore, chapters and sections of his book that deal with Scripture I will not address. I will clearly show, however, that Rana does not understand my work (and therefore makes many strategic errors), particularly in Chapter four. That chapter is invalidated by my published discoveries of soft tissue in Triceratops horn.
That this is a decidedly anti young-earth creationist (YEC) book is an understatement. Rana (2016) chides and belittles YEC’s at regular intervals, making it clear that we represent the greatest opposition to his need to keep the faithful in line lest they begin to question his teaching on a very old earth. In fact, the Introduction, every chapter, the conclusion, and even the appendix include arguments directed specifically at those of us who hold to a young earth.
Barely five paragraphs into the Introduction, Dr. Rana launches his attack on young-earth creationists. With an air of superiority, he begins his treatment of YEC teaching by pitting it against “true science” and characterizing YEC’s as having “only a line of reasoning” in the face of “true scientific fact.”
It is not surprising that I am the first young-earth creationist that Dr. Rana (2016) names by name (in the very paragraph following his opening salvo against YEC’s). To his credit, Rana does correctly report that we published original scientific findings on soft tissue, being the first to report on soft tissue in a Triceratops horn (Armitage and Anderson 2013). However, as you will note in my review of Chapter 4 below, Rana exposes his ignorance of the true significance of that work.
A glaring example of this lack of understanding is seen when Rana (2016) uses the phrase “soft tissue remnants” (eleven times alone in the Introduction), illustrating a conspicuous disregard of the stunning and copious numbers of fantastically preserved bone cells (osteocytes) we found in the Triceratops horn, frill and condyle, and most recently in Nanotyrannus (a recently erected genus related to T. rex).
Simply Googling Armitage Triceratops readily accesses all of my work online.
Moreover, my contact information, email address and phone number, are plastered all over the internet. It would have been a simple matter for Dr. Rana to have contacted me directly and avoid the embarrassment that he has experienced by mischaracterizing my work. Researchers must exhaust every lead when doing background information for a book.
On page 11, Rana (2016) laments that young-earth creationists such as myself, Brian Thomas, and Vance Nelson, are mounting arguments that support the obvious conclusion that soft tissues in dinosaur remains are young. He claims that our activity has influenced many Christians to use these arguments to “engage skeptics and seekers alike,” and that he has great concerns about the harm that this can have on evangelism (Rana 2016, 12). Again, I won’t delve into the biblical ramifications of Dr. Rana’s refusal to believe a plain reading of Scripture, both Old and New Testaments. lf he wants to deny the very words of Jesus Christ and the Scripture written into stone by the finger of God, about a recent, rapid creation (Exodus 31:17-18), that is his choice. But for him to state that my “questionable scientific claims” cause “many people to view Christianity as unscientific” is pretty cut-rate coming from a Ph.D. who does not himself publish in science.
I would suggest to Dr. Rana and all others that the journals are open for submissions. All one has to do is to go to the Hell Creek Formation, collect dinosaur remains like the severed Triceratops horn that we found, analyze them in their laboratory like we did, and prove our conclusions wrong by publishing in Acta Histochemica or a related journal. That is how science is done.
What is more, Dr. Rana claims, “it would be challenging to find an expert who questions the measured ages of fossils and the antiquity of the earth…” (Rana 2016, 12). I will leave it to the reader to study the many fine works published by many Ph.D’s and experts who have already challenged Rana’s statements, and who have published research in prestigious journals showing the “antiquity of the earth” to be based on faulty assumptions and outright falsehoods. But I will say that my major professor, Dr. Richard Lumsden, Dean for many years of the Graduate School at Tulane University, who mentored many fine Ph.D.’s (all of whom are at the top of their fields in parasitology and biology today), also handled millions of dollars in National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation grants (something that few can add to their resumes). Yet Lumsden was one expert who definitely questioned “the measured ages of fossils and the antiquity of the earth”. Once again I leave it to the reader to investigate the writings of many Ph.D.’s that do not agree with Rana’s statement (for example, Snelling 2009).
In the Introduction, Rana (2016) unveils, and then carries through the book a sort of comedic relief or sarcastic assessment of note. He recounts his boyhood infatuation with a series of comic books called “Ripley’s Believe It or Not!” He recounts with some detail the life of Robert Ripley, a newspaper reporter, and how he collected what he called oddities during his many travels. Ripley would then place these into museums he called “Odditoriums”. Rana characterizes dinosaur soft cells and tissues, what he calls “soft tissue remnants”, as some hard to believe facts that might fit very well into an “Odditorium.”
I personally can’t escape the feeling that Rana is characterizing me as a type of Robert Ripley running around the country looking for hard to believe soft dinosaur cells, in order to put them in an “Odditorium” of sorts. It is hard not to feel resentful about this simplistic and almost sarcastic comparison, as I recall the amount of work, time and money that was expended in order to go into the field, find and carefully remove dinosaur remains, examine them in my laboratory (with electron microscopes) and then submit the results for publication in a world-renowned journal. I’m sure Robert Ripley never accomplished that!
It is also especially painful that Rana (2016) continues to use this illustration in light of the fact that my 35-year career as a professional microscopist was shipwrecked by high ranking scientists at California State University. Rana may feel that few scientists “are impressed with this latest scientific argument for a young earth” (Rana 2016, 11), but blog comments about my work, my termination, and my lawsuit are characterized by “I cannot believe Cal State hired a moron like Armitage.” Rana’s odd use of “Ripley’s Believe it or Not!” phrases extends throughout the book, but they deserve no more attention than what has been given here.
Radiometric Dating Methods
Chapter three of the book is a review of the radiometric dating methods. There are many fine resources available that discuss and expose this topic from a YEC and biblical point of view (for example, Vardiman, Snelling and Chaffin 2000, 2005). However, Rana (2016) must mount a vigorous reinforcement of radiometric dating at this juncture, because stunning soft dinosaur cells appear to throw these dating methods “under the bus.” Rana even writes on page 12, “The goal of chapter three is to demonstrate why radiometric dating istrustworthy” [emphasis in the original]. I find this to be a curious statement by a Ph.D. regarding an area of science that is supposedly beyond any incredulity, and beyond his expertise to adequately assess its validity or not.
It reminds me of my early days in microscopy when working for Carl Zeiss, Inc., “The Great Name in Optics.” Training by Zeiss never focused on flaws in the product line of amazing microscopes. In fact, the training stressed that Zeiss microscopes were flawless. They offered the highest level of optical performance available on the planet. This was evidenced by the near total number of journal research papers that cited Zeiss as the microscopy equipment used in the research being reported. One never had to tell a potential client, “Let me tell you why Zeiss is trustworthy” -everyone knew that it was! Rana (2016) compounds this curious need to explain why radiometric dating is trustworthy by adding on page 13, “I will then offer a few reasons why I think these methods produce believable results” [emphasis mine]. If the product you are representing must be propped up by some reasons to believe that it is trustworthy and believable, and a great number of people suspect it to be otherwise, maybe it is time to represent another product.
Nevertheless, Rana (2016) dives in to radiometric dating methods in Chapter three with a thorough enough review. He devotes significant time to the intricacies and technicalities of the methods, and that it requires the use of “experts who have spent years working with these techniques” (Chapter 3, p. 44) to understand it, and “geochemists who possess a good understanding” to get it right (Rana 2016, 45). He mentions in passing, however, that it can be “tricky” and that “rare exceptions do exist where chemical and physical processes do alter the radioactive decay rate” (Rana 2016, 41). It is a shame that he misses the opportunity to share with his readers that there has been an observed solar influence on some nuclear decay rates (Jenkins et al. 2012). If we are just now discovering influences on some decay rates such as these solar ones, who knows what other influences that we know nothing about might also alter these “constant” rates?
It is in this chapter, however, that Rana (2016) must be corrected on two very important misrepresentations. The first is his conspicuous misunderstanding that “Armitage …uncovered soft, flexible brown sheets about 8 inches by 4 inches in size from the Triceratops fossilized horn after soaking pieces of it in a mild acid bath for a month” (Chapter 3, p. 50) [emphasis mine].
Firstly, did Rana read our published paper (Armitage and Anderson 2013)? The Triceratopshorn was not fossilized (permineralized). It responded to and was decalcified by the very weak acid EDTA that is used in pathology labs daily to dissolve bone. Next, he needed only to read the second sentence of the abstract to realize how wrong he is about the soaking of the bone in that acid and the “soft, flexible brown sheets”! Or he might have simply read the caption of figure 5 which reads, “Light micrograph, flap of fixed soft tissue (white arrow) slightly peeled away from undecalcified Triceratops bone specimen (black arrow)” [emphasis mine]. Regardless, our paper states on page 604, “Large strips of thin, light brown, soft material (20cm by I 0cm) were recovered from the innermost sections of other fixed and unfixed, non-decalcified horn bone pieces” [emphasis mine]. In other words, the “soft, flexible brown sheets” that Rana refers to were found in un-soaked bone. There was no need to soak the bone in anything to get to them – they were simply lying there against hard bone.
Secondly, Rana assumes that pieces of the horn containing these “soft, flexible brown sheets” were submitted to 14C dating, the results of which were reported by Thomas and Nelson (2015, 50-51). This is simply not the case. I know what was submitted and what was not submitted for radiocarbon dating.
Based on this error, Rana (2016) builds a faulty argument supporting his contention that YEC’s make “it impossible that the 14C they detected was endogenous to (produced within) the soft tissue.” He contends that “that amount of (soft, flexible brown) material should have easily produced a strong 14C signal,” and that “It is impossible to reconcile the data reported with any scenario that would treat the flexible sheets of soft tissue as only 3000 to 6000 years old” (Rana 2016, 50).
The piece of the Triceratops horn that was subjected (in this initial 14C testing) was not from the center of the bone where the “soft, flexible brown sheets” of fibrillar bone were found. I sent those researchers a chunk of the outer, weathered and fractured part of the 10-inch diameter horn. It is not surprising then that “older than expected” dates were received from the test because the specimen submitted was found upside down in the soil with all of its vascular elements facing up and exposed to rain, roots, microbes, insects etc, all of which might have degraded soft tissue in the outer bone.
The soft sheets have not been tested for 14C. At some point in the future they will be submitted for 14C dating. Rana did not know this fact regarding what was submitted for testing at the time he wrote his book, but he could have asked.
Therefore, his arguments with respect to the “older” than expected 14C age for the “soft, flexible brown sheets” of fibrillar bone which should have had “a strong 14C signal” (Rana 2016, 50-51) are invalidated. And he also ignores the well documented existence in the literature of strong 14C signals in fossil shells and bones, oils, coals and diamonds supposedly millions and billions of years old (Vardiman, Snelling and Chaffin 2005).
His Arguments for Preservation of Biomolecules
The next chapter, Chapter four of Dr. Rana’s book (Rana 2016), is his Achilles heel and his undoing, especially with respect to the soft fibrillar sheets of bone that have been discussed in our published paper (Armitage and Anderson 2013). Rana contends that, “most of the biomolecules that survived in the fossil remains of dinosaurs are made up of molecules with one of two properties:
- an extensive cross linking, or
- a chemical makeup similar to graphite”.
He is not incorrect that collagen does feature a great deal of cross-linking, but the graphite comment could mislead some folks. Many biological tissues are characterized by the connecting together of many repeated polymer sub-units. Graphite could be considered to have a more complex construction than do biological tissues because of its far stronger bonds, but it is not itself biological. What is more, osteocytes are not collagen. They are delicate cells with no cross-linking in their structure. For that matter neither is DNA with no cross-linking whatsoever. So Dr. Rana seems to be doing a Ripley’s “magic trick” by focusing attention away from these more labile structures in favor of collagen. Nevertheless, Rana (2016) proceeds to describe seven “durable” chemical biological structures as potential reasons for the ongoing presence of dinosaur tissues in bone graveyards after millions of years of exposure in their shallow graves.
I note that little discussion is made here of the highly destructive actions of water molecules and oxidants (like those produced by the action of free iron) on once living biological tissue systems. What is more, none of the seven “durable” chemical structures have anything to do with the membranes of cells, like the thousands of osteocyte cells that we have recovered from dinosaur remains. The phospholipid bilayer membrane of every osteocyte cell is extremely vulnerable to the action of water and oxidants, which bring about massive decay (McCord, 2004). What is curious, however, is that Rana goes into some detail describing the durability of the heme molecule, and concludes, “the porphyrin ring [which locks the iron molecule tightly to its center] is an extremely stable compound, which helps explain its presence in fossilized dinosaur bones” (Rana 2016, 61) [comments mine]. Rana is actually making a very good argument here contradicting Dr. Schweitzer’s hypothesis that “free” iron molecules work through Fenton chemistry reactions to produce hydroxyls and peroxyls (oxidants) which somehow “fix” the soft tissues (like formaldehyde). If the heme molecule is “extremely stable”, then how is the iron liberated? Additionally, how do these liberated iron molecules “fix” tissues with the dangerous hydroxyl oxidants before they can destroy the very tissues they are “fixing”? Remember that none of this is explained by Schweitzer et al. (2014) or Rana.
On page 62 Rana (2016) confesses that he only has half an explanation at this point, as “durability alone is not sufficient to account for the survival of soft tissues in fossil remains for upwards of hundreds of millions of years.” He then qualifies the importance of what he is about to tell us, “Many other conditions must also be met simultaneously.” None of the nine stabilizing conditions he outlines (that must be met) relate to the Triceratops horn we recovered.
Let us consider these nine “stabilizing conditions”:
- “During fossilization [I think he means per-mineralization], mineral-rich water infuses the remains…the original minerals in the bone (and other parts) are replaced with minerals from the environment” (Rana 2016, 62). In the case of the Triceratops horn, only the vessels that were open to the environment (and mineral-rich water) were hardened into That is why they did not respond to decalcification. The bone, however, is still bone. One can see this clearly in Figure 14 and 15 of our paper (Armitage and Anderson 2103, 607). It responded to the same decalcification protocol that every pathology laboratory in the country employs to examine soft tissues in human bone. It is still bone. Therefore # 1 is invalidated.
- “Burial conditions also appear to be important…presumably water more readily drains away from animal remains…creating drier conditions, removing microbes and environmental enzymes,” (Rana 2016, 62). In the case of the horn, our paper stated clearly, “the horn was not desiccated when recovered and actually had a muddy matrix deeply embedded within it” (Armitage and Anderson 2013, 606). There were “drier conditions” associated with the deposit, but it was not so in the horn. We described in several places in our paper that the horn was wet, therefore it would have certainly been perfused with bacteria, microbes and environmental enzymes. Therefore #2 is invalidated.
- For the third qualification, Rana discusses “Dry, anhydrous conditions”, which we have just dealt with above, but here he seems to now argue for the need for wet samples! “Ironically, in some instances, a limited amount of water may actually help preserve biomolecules such as collagen,” (Rana 2016, 63). My question becomes, which is it? Wet or dry? His answer is apparently, both!
- For this condition, Rana identifies oxygen as a “highly reactive, chemically destructive material that readily destroys organics,”(Rana 2016, 64), and therefore soft tissues in dinosaur remains must be segregated from oxygen in order to remain preserved. In several places in our Acta Histochemica paper (Armitage and Anderson 2013), including the figures, we noted that plant roots were abundant (even underlying some of the soft brown sheets) and that they probably contributed to the fracturing of the horn. Therefore, oxygen would have been present into the far reaches of the fractured Yet large sheets of fibrillar bone, and exquisitely preserved osteocytes were present. Therefore #4 is invalidated.
- For the fifth stabilizing condition, Dr. Rana emphasizes that soft tissue remains must be kept away from environmental influences, such as digestive enzymes or other chemicals that would otherwise destroy soft tissues. The standard and oft repeated argument is that the soft tissues are protected by encapsulating hard bone, thus destructive enzymes cannot get to them. Programmed cell death and simple entropy alone would cause unfed, unattended cells to rot on their own, whether they were embedded in bone mineral or not. Therefore, they must have been preserved quickly to yield the stunningly preserved cells that we observe.
Hence, for the “iron preservation” theory to work and work quickly to prevent decay, cells and tissues had to be available to “free” iron, operating with water, under Fenton chemistry reaction conditions, which yield hydroxyls and peroxyls that supposedly stabilize the very tissues they are destroying. The soft tissues we observe must somehow have been miraculously sequestered from enzymatic actions and hydrolysis, while some “stabilization” using these chemicals supposedly occurred. The “free” iron must have been ripped away from the heme-an “extremely stable compound” (Rana 2016, 61) which prevents the iron from actually being “free”. The “free” iron must avoid combining with oxygen in the presence of water, forming iron oxide compounds. Moreover, one other miracle, which must occur, is that all of this must take place in less than about 20 minutes before all of the blood clots make the “free” iron less accessible.
Rana also identifies the presence of microorganisms, which would be the “death knell”, as it were, to preserving soft tissues. Once again, hemoglobin purportedly comes into play in a miraculous way by serving as an anti-microbial, all-purpose disinfectant, protector, stabilizer, formaldehyde-fixing marvel that solves the problems that need solving and ignores the ones that need ignoring. In this case “you can have your soft tissue and you can eat it too.”
- It is at this point that Dr. Rana fully endorses the “iron preservation” experiment, discussed above. It seems every creationist knows about this infamous and naive experiment, and every evolutionist uses it to silence any opposition to its miraculous powers at preserving stunning cells and tissues for eons. Some of my objections to it must be answered by evolutionists, like Rana, if they wish to preserve credibility in the world of science.
a. Schweitzer et ‘s (2014) materials and methods for the “iron preservation” paper, (which at one time were only available by searching the Proceedings of the Royal Society Bwebsite) is most telling. It appears, however, that the materials and methods “electronic supplemental material” is no longer available online, at least not at the URL printed in the Schweitzer et al. (2014) paper. Nevertheless, the lengths that these workers had to go to gain access to the ‘free’ iron was monumental. Firstly, chicken and ostrich blood was combined with EDTA, which would have prevented any clotting. Next the blood solution was high speed centrifuged multiple times to remove all plasma (which contains clotting proteins and enzymes), all platelets, and all white cells. Then after subjecting the remaining red blood cells (RBC’s) to a lysing solution on ice, which broke all of the RBC membranes, only hemoglobin was left. This is what the fresh tissues were soaked in for two years. This preparation of raw hemoglobin is hardly representative of conditions in the Hell Creek Formation deposits.
b. Schweitzer et (2014) used mass spectrometry (MS) to identify nine peptides (almost complete proteins) in dinosaur osteocytes, yet no MS was employed to study these peptides for results of hydrolysis, an easy test to do. The damage that hydroxyl and peroxyl molecules do to amino acids, such as asparagine and glutamine, would have been evident due to exposure to oxidation. Additionally, evidence of hydrolysis could have been looked for. We are told that the Hell Creek Formation was deposited under inland shallow seas, therefore hydrolytic damage should show up if Fenton reactions were active in the presence of water in these tissues. Moreover, as discussed above, the hydroxyls and peroxyls produced by Fenton chemistry are well known to be highly destructive to tissues (McCord 2004, Prousek et al. 2007). Damage to these amino acids would be observable. What is more, Schweitzer et al. (2014) explicitly state, “Oxy radicals facilitate protein cross-linking like formaldehyde,” and then they reference Hawkins and Davies (2001), which cites some 240 papers showing that hydroxyls actually destroy tissues.
Notwithstanding the problems mentioned above in liberating the “free” iron from the clotting, the hemoglobin, and the heme molecule, plus the miraculous “fixation” of Fenton reaction oxy radicals, Schweitzer et al. (2014) merely examined the incubated tissues with light microscopy (only light micrographs were published) after the 2-year experiment. No further detailed analysis was done.
Rana (2016) makes mention of the iron filaments found in concentrated form, and only in some samples by Schweitzer, but this reminds one of the well-known pooling of blood products at the lower portions of limbs and bodies after death, called livor-mortis. In fact, when I spoke at the Microscopy Society of America meeting in 2013, I flipped one of Schweitzer et al.’s (2014) figures upside down and asked how iron filaments could reach across large swaths of tissue and provide fixation? Every head in the room bobbed up and down in agreement.
c. Incubating soft tissue in highly prepared hemoglobin for two years in a laboratory container at constant temperature in the absence of water, heat, the freeze-thaw cycle of the Montana winters, microbes, bacteria, plant roots, fungal mats, insects, rodents, and all of the other naturally occurring environmental factors is unrepresentative of the conditions that these dinosaur remains were buried in. A more realistic experiment should be done that includes all these factors.
- Rana (2016) admits that high temperatures are more detrimental to the preservation of soft tissues than are cooler temperatures, but then he argues that high temperatures actually assist in their preservation! So again, which is it? The average Montana summer and winter temperatures are 88°F and 9°F respectively, plus rain-water, and melting snow and ice are large environmental factors that cannot be Therefore, the Triceratops horn that yielded soft tissues cycled through hot and below freezing temperatures year after year and yet shows stunning preservation.
- Neutral pH is desirable according to Rana’s logic, but then so is highly acidic or highly alkaline! Again, I ask, which is it? Nevertheless, with all of the biotic activity in the Hell Creek Formation layers it is assumed that neutral pH, conducive to the presence of all the living organisms listed above, was the case for the Triceratops Once again, a “must have” stabilizing factor is invalidated.
- Finally, Rana (2016) argues that collagen survives better when buried in mineral rich environments that coat collagen and sequester it from enzymes, decomposers and the However, stunningly preserved osteocytes are not collagen, yet I am finding fully supple and soft cells, in large numbers with no evidence of permineralization. Once again, a “must have” stabilizing condition outlined by Dr. Rana is invalidated.
None of these conditions apply to the soft sheets of fibrillar bone that I peeled away from interior sections of the fractured Triceratops horn collected less than 2 feet from the surface of the Montana badlands, nor to the thousands of soft cells I have recovered from within that horn to date.
More could be said about the rest of this book, but I believe the damage is done.
Dr. Rana cannot hide behind ”just so stories”, and hastily arranged experiments that “prove” that iron and Fenton chemistry provided the most stunning preservation of soft dinosaur cells known to man, nor can he expect that any of these conditions “must” have been present to preserve the Triceratops horn tissues we have found.
One thing Rana (2016) repeats over and over in his book is something like, “But the YEC’s are unconvinced.” We would simply say that we remain unconvinced because none of his arguments are convincing! As I have shown here, the stunningly preserved cells and fibrillar bone that we recovered from the Triceratops horn, in the presence of water, oxygen, plant roots, fungal mats, bacteria, microbes, insects, rodents and the harsh summer and winter conditions in the badlands of Montana defy all of the reasons Dr. Rana has erected for their preservation.
One final comment, as a microscopist of over 35 years, and one well acquainted with methods of cellular and tissue preservation using very dangerous chemicals, I personally remain mystified by the presence of the tissues we have found. Hydroxyl radicals, “free” iron, and iron filaments cannot fit ”the bill”. There is still no good explanation for the existence of these cells and strips of fibrillar bone. If “iron preservation” is a viable method of cellular preservation, the fact that it is environmentally friendly, is nontoxic to human eyes, skin and lungs during usage, and requires no specialized disposal precautions, you can bet every tissue processing lab in the world would be lining up to learn the protocol for use in their lab! So far that is not the case. The first person to develop such a protocol would be famous for it and would be written into the microscopy journals forever.
I do not know why these tissues are present even if they are 4500 years old. Some may argue that these remains might go back to a Flood age of 4500 years because that is consistent with studies that show the half-lives of some of these molecules and structures to be consistent with such an age. Let us not forget, however, that the Hell Creek Formation is a much more inhospitable place than our sanitized and controlled laboratory glassware.
If it is acceptable for old earth evolutionists to count on a miraculous “iron preservation” method, then I cannot be castigated for counting on the miraculous preservation method of Almighty God that may have made these cells available to us “for such a time as this”.
Armitage, M.H., and K.L. Anderson. 2013. “Soft Sheets of Fibrillar Bone from a Fossil of the Supraorbital Horn of the Dinosaur Triceratops horridus.” Acta Histochemica 115:603-608.
Armitage, M.H. 2016. “Preservation of Triceratops horridus Tissue Cells from the Hell Creek Formation, MT.” Microscopy Today 24(01):18-23. doi:10.1017/S1551929515001133
Hawkins, C.L., and M.J. Davies. 2001. “Generation and Propagations of Radical Reactions on Proteins.” Biochimica Biophysica Acta 1504:196-219.
Jenkins, J.H., K.R. Herminghuysen, T.E. Blue, E. Fischbach, D. Javorsek II, A.C. Kauffman, D.W. Mundy. P.A. Sturrock, and J.W. Talnagi. 2012. “Additional Experimental Evidence for a Solar Influence on Nuclear Decay Rates.” Astroparticle Physics, 37: 81-88
McCord, J. 2004. “Iron, Free Radicals and Oxidative Injury.” Journal of Nutrition 134(11): 3171S-3172S.
Mortenson, T., and T.H. Ury, eds. 2008. Coming to Grips with Genesis. Green Forest, Arkansas : Master Books.
Prousek, J. 2007. “Fenton Chemistry in Biology and Medicine.” Pure and Applied Chemistry79 (12): 2325-2338.
Rana, F. 2016. Dinosaur Blood and the Age of the Earth. Covina, California: RTB Press.
Schweitzer, M.H., W. Zheng, T.P. Cleland, M.B. Goodwin, E. Boatman, E. Theil, M.A. Marcus, and S.C. Fakra. 2014. “A Role for Iron and Oxygen in Preserving Soft Tissues, Cells and Molecules from Deep Time. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 281:2013.2741; DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2013.2741. Archived at: http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/281/1775/20132741
Snelling, A.A. 2009. Earth ‘s Catastrophic Past: Geology, Creation and the Flood Dallas, TX: Institute for Creation Research.
Thomas, B., and V. Nelson. 2015. “Radiocarbon in Dinosaur and Other Fossils.” Creation Research Society Quarterly 51(4):299-311.
Vardiman, L., A.A. Snelling, and E.F. Chaffin, eds. 2000. Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth: A Young-Earth Creationist Research Initiative. El Cajon, California: Institute for Creation Research; and St. Joseph, Missouri: Creation Research Society.
Vardiman, L., A.A. Snelling, and E.F. Chaffin, eds. 2005. Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth: Results of a Young-Earth Creationist Research Initiative . El Cajon, California: Institute for Creation Research; and Chino Valley, Arizona: Creation Research Society.
Featured image credit: Good Free Photos
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