|Posted on August 28, 2013 at 6:35 AM|
On Monday 26th August at 21.00 BBC2’s Horizonprogramme broadcast a documentary called ‘Dinosaurs:The Hunt for Life’ featuring palaeontologist Dr Mary Schweitzer. Her discoveryof traces of soft tissue and red blood cells in the fossilised bones of a ’68 million year old’ T Rex hasfascinated creationists since the first reports in 2005 but have, as far as Iknow, been studiously ignored by the establishment. So, was this documentaryabout setting the record straight or an exercise designed to nullify and explain away inconvenient evidence?
The discoveries themselves are fascinating, and can bestudied in more depth by Googling on (Mary Schweitzer dinosaur soft tissue) orsimilar terms. There isa useful write up on Answers in Genesis here. The initial discovery was madewhen a large T Rex thigh bone had to be sawn in half as it was too big to load on toa helicopter to get it out of the desert where it had been dug up. A smell wasnoticed. Further analysis showed soft tissue with blood vessels that stillretained some elasticity and contained blood cells. It was hard to suppose thatthis organic tissue had remained intact for 68 million years, but the idea thatthe bones might have only been perhaps a few thousand years old was truly unacceptable.Was this the ‘Mount St Helens’ (*) ofpalaeontology? As Dr David Menton (a cell biology PhD working with Answers inGenesis) said, “Itcertainly taxes one’s imagination to believe that soft tissue and cells couldremain so relatively fresh in appearance for the tens of millions of years ofsupposed evolutionary history.”
When, inevitably, the findings were challenged, Dr Schweitzer’steam published more analysis which proved by multiple independent analysis of another dinosaur fossil thatvertebrate specific proteins (collagen, elastin and haemoglobin) were present. 68 million year old organic tissue?
The documentary did not mention the age/dating problem DrMenton and other creationists raised, that since organic tissue could hardly beexpected to survive 68 million years, perhaps the dates were wrong by orders ofmagnitude. As Dr Schweitzer quoted a sceptical colleague saying to her, ‘I don’t care what the data says, this isimpossible.’ That response would be understandable from someone who holdsto millions of years as a non negotiable axiom. What do we do when faced withfacts that challenge the world view we have built our lives upon? Rejection anddenial are likely.
That was about all the time given to the sceptics, no timeat all was given to creationist response and analysis. Of course, it is not possibleto conduct an experiment to see whether soft tissue can survive for millions ofyears, so we are down to assumptions and world views. What it boils down to is that if these bonesare only a few thousand years old, as the soft tissue suggests, the wholeDarwinian project of explaining the world without a creator fails utterly. Andsecularism and materialism fall with it. The materialists are hardly likely toconcede this. Dinosaur DNA?
The rest of the programme wandered off into varioustangents, including a walk in the Gobi desert with discussion about fossilhunters who were only after profit from selling dinosaur bones. These peoplewere destroying valuable scientific evidence, we were told, for personal gain,the market having gone ballistic after a T Rex fossil was bought for $7.3 milliondollars by a Chicago Museum. There was also the usual speculation aboutdinosaurs evolving into birds. An interesting line of enquiry has opened as to whetherenough intact dinosaur DNA can be recovered to tell us more about what theseanimals really looked like. The famous dinosaur hunter Dr Jack Horner, Dr Schweitzer’smentor and allegedly the model for the Sam Neill character in ‘Jurassic Park’, expressed hope thatdinosaur DNA would teach us more about what living dinosaurs were like.
Ironically, the illustration of a horse (The winsome Dr Schweitzerwas filmed riding and grooming her horse) was used to suggest that our recreationsof extinct animals based on their bones was most likely inaccurate. Er,yes-creationists have been saying this for decades! Nebraska man being perhapsthe most notorious example, although manyother reconstructions of supposed human ancestors have been dreamed up andcalled evidence on the most scanty fossil fragments. Will dinosaur DNA helpus, as Dr Jack Horner suggested, help us find the ‘real evolutionary information’, or even as was hinted enable thegenetic engineering of live dinosaurs, as perhaps hinted at in the programme’stitle ‘Dinosaurs: the Hunt for Life’? Of course the fact that theseconversations are even taking place is indicative that the reality of undecayedsoft tissue in supposedly millions of year old bones is now being grudginglyaccepted as fact. Untestable hypotheses and wrong questions
Dr Schweitzer did seem to have a more open mind than some,mentioning that ‘a lot of dinosaur work is based on untestable hypotheses’ andthat ‘The world of dinosaur science is asking the wrong questions’ butshe apparently remains committed to millions of years. Creationists however suggestthat it seriously stretches credulity to believe that proteins could survivethat long. Taken together with the many global dragon/dinosaur legends and depictionsof dinosaurs in primitive art like the Cambodian stegosaurus carving (anotherpiece of evidence that tends to be ignored by mainstream media) this remarkablefinding points to a much younger age of the earth and far more recent age ofdinosaurs than can be accounted for by a materialist world view.
Finally, the documentary discussed the means hereby largeanimal carcasses became fossils. The animals were rapidly and completelyenclosed in fast moving sand or mud. How this happened was not mentioned, butwe do know it must have happened rapidly because animals that die and fall tothe ground in normal conditions are eaten and scattered by scavengers withindays if not hours. This is a matter of direct observation, not speculation. Aglobal flood remains the best theoretical model to explain the large scalefossilisation of dinosaurs. Really finally, a few representative dinosaurscould have fitted on Noah’s Ark. According to the Bible, God sent the animalstwo by two, He would quite obviously have chosen young specimens as these wouldhave had greater breeding potential and taken up less room and eaten less. Obviousenough when you allow yourself to think about it.
In summary, ‘Dinosaurs:The Hunt for Life’ was interesting as much for what it left out and forvarious distractions as for its analysis of the fascinating discovery of softtissue, protein and red blood cells in dinosaur bones. This unexpected discoveryhas the potential to force a re-evaluation of the dogma of long ages andmillions of years, a necessary (but not sufficient) condition for evolution tohave taken place. It seems that the establishment is not about to let thathappen even if they are finding it increasingly difficult to explain Dr Schweitzer’sfindings away.
I loved the quote from a nameless scientist ‘I don’t care what the data says, this isimpossible.’
As Dr Schweitzer remarked, ‘How is this science?’
(*) The mount St Helens explosion and subsequent eventsdemonstrated that changes such as laying down strata and burial of trees couldhappen over days in the right catastrophic conditions, providing directevidence that millions of years were not necessary to lay down rock layers.