Scientist dismissed after soft tissue found on dinosaur fossil

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A microscope scientist working for California State University has been fired following the discovery that a Triceratops horn still contained soft tissue complete with bone cells “that look alive”, according to a report in CBS Los Angeles . The scientist, whose analysis of the Triceratops horn was published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal, is also an evangelical creationist, and claimed that the finding supports the view that Earth is 6,000 years old and that dinosaurs roamed the planet around 4,000 years ago. While the university claims the scientist, Mark Armitage, was fired for allowing his religion to interfere with his work, Armitage is suing the University for wrongful dismissal on the basis of violation to freedom of speech and academic freedom. 

Mark Armitage, a published scientist of over 30 years, was working at the Hell Creek Formation excavation site in Montanaa when he discovered one of the largest Triceratops horns ever unearthed at the site. According to conventional perspectives, the Triceratops is a genus of herbivorous dinosaur that first appeared in the late Cretaceous period, about 68 million years ago in what is now North America, and became extinct around 66 million years ago.

Example of a Triceratops horn

Example of a Triceratops horn. Photo source .

Armitage studied the fossil in the California State University lab using a high-powered miscroscope and was stunned to find soft tissue complete with bone cells.  According to Armitage, the preservation of such cells is a scientific impossibility if the dinosaur really walked the Earth over 66 million years ago. On this basis, he felt it was not unreasonable to open discussion with colleagues and students about the implications of such a finding being that the creationist perspective is correct and that dinosaurs existed much later than mainstream science maintains. The results of Armitage’s analysis of the soft tissue was eventually published in July 2013 in the journal Acta Histochemica . Nevertheless, Armitage was fired from the University of California, which he is now fighting in court.

“Terminating an employee because of their religious views is completely inappropriate and illegal,” said Attorney Brad Dacus of Pacific Justice Institute. “But doing so in an attempt to silence scientific speech at a public university is even more alarming. This should be a wakeup call and warning to the entire world of academia.”

While numerous examples of suppression of ‘academic freedom’ can be cited in which scientists have been discriminated against for presenting views that conflict with mainstream perspectives, Armitage made the ‘unscientific’ mistake of assuming that the dinosaur must be only several thousand years old simply because the process in which the cells were preserved was not understood by him.

In fact, the finding of the soft tissue is not the first of its kind.  Several ground-breaking discoveries in the last decade have revealed preserved soft tissue on dinosaur remains, such as the recent finding of 68-milion-year-old soft tissue from the bones of a Tyrannosaurus rex. However, Mary Schweitzer, a molecular paleontologist at North Carolina State University, who headed up the research on the T. rex remains, explained that the soft tissue was able to be preserved by iron in the dinosaur’s body, which preserved the tissue before it could decay.

The legal case surrounding Armitage’s dismissal opens up many important questions about academic freedom, whether science and religion can ever truly coexist in harmony, and what knowledge may be unravelled by the discovery of preserved cells in the remains of dinosaurs.

Featured image: A Triceratops. Source: BigStockPhoto

By April Holloway



The reason he was fired is because the humanist\evolutionist cannot, and will not tolerate truth when it goes against their religion of evolution.

You are exactly right.

You are exactly right.

Incorrect. As usual with creationist web sites, the truth is withheld in order to make scummy trash look like victims. Mr. HARMitage lied about his qualifications and, in any case he was only hired on a temporary basis.

Justbod's picture

How amazing that soft tissue could survive so long. This is the first time I've heard of this. Also very interesting, both the reaction of the scientist and the subsequent reaction of his peers. I wonder if this will help open a debate on the 'objectivity' of scientific research. Raises some interesting issues.....
Thanks for the article!

Sculptures, carvings & artwork inspired by a love of history & nature: www.justbod.co.uk




The biggest problem is sensationalist journalism, which misleads the half-educated populace. No, there is no soft tissue in a fossil, nor are there living cells in a fossil. What these fossils contain are IMPRESSIONS of soft tissue. For this to happen the soft tissue has to survive until the mineralization process sets in, and the preserving sediment has to be fine enough to preserve a detailed image of the tissue.

Most people are under the impression that a fossilized bone is a bone – it is not. It is a mineral that preserves the exact impression of the bone, and also preserves the mineral make up of the bone.

A scientist publishing that actual soft tissue or living cells were found in a fossil, without providing sufficient evidence is guilty of abusing his credentials as a researcher. No one objected when the South Korean cloning researcher Hwang Woo-Suk was fired for embellishing his research. Hwang did it for the money, and this guy did it for his religion.



Soft tissues emerged as some of the dinosaur bone's original minerals departed. The study authors found "large strips of thin, light brown, soft material (20 cm by 10 cm)." They also identified bone cells called osteocytes, "including internal nucleus-like spheres, primary and secondary filipodia, and cell to cell junctions."1

I get the impression that you were mislead to think that the soft tissue was only an impression when it was clearly not. They pulled "large strips" FROM the fossil in question. Put creation theory aside and your evolutionary bias aside and look at the facts. Start with a fresh mind, look at the evidence and then see what world view you would lean toward (even if its not religious "as in Christianity or evolution" yes, both are religions) you could be a young earth atheist.

If we as humanity stopped looking for the real answer every time a new finding or an interesting question was raised just because some religious fundamentalists cried "magic" did it, Where would we be?

I am going to sound insulting, buts its like every single Christian puts a dunce cap on and is proud of it. Would you people like to go back to the dark ages? Would you like to be ruled by the church the way it used to be? Would you like every single illness and disease treated as a demon possession an evil spirit or witchcraft? That is what the world looks like when you don't use the scientific process to find rational and factual answers to what is really going on in the world.

When we find soft tissue in a Dinosaur bone it does not mean that your religious text is true. It is not a proof that every word in your religious text is perfect. It certainly doesn't mean that your religious texts explanation of things fits the actual evidence.

You guys need to think long and hard about what the world would really look like if you guys were in complete control. It would be a very dark and scary place. We would have no hospitals no doctors no medicines no books no learning no freedom of thought no exploration of nature. These are all things that Christians at one time burnt people at the state over.

What would the Baptists do to the Pentecostals? Or the Protestants the Catholics (let alone all the bloodshed between all the protestant groups). This is what you guys are hanging your hat on. This is what the world would be like without real scientific secular inquiry about nature and reality. The world would be filled with far more pain, suffering and brutality and no magical being would be coming down from the sky to stop it.

I am serious. No magical being is going to fly down from the sky some day to save you. Live in the real world.

I like how you just completely IGNORED the fact that this still REALLY DID HAPPEN lol. A scientist found SOFT TISSUE in a creature that's supposed to be long gone for more then 60 million years. Its IMPOSSIBLE for it to have SOFT TISSUE still. Does that calculate in your brain? I'm not saying the earth is 6000-10000 years old I personally believe its much older BUT this amazing find raises many questions.

actually I didn't completely ignore the find. I wrote a post responding to the Dearth if fundamentalist Christians who think this proves the earth is 6,000 years old. Did you ignore other articles on this site? like the one recently posted about the 70,000 year old city that was just discovered in Africa?

It is possible to believe in creation of the universe and the earth by a supreme being and not be in contradiction with the Bible's account of the creative days. If you were to read for yourself what it actually says. "In the beginning god created the heavens and the earth." No number is given. The time periods called, "day" are unspecified periods of time. Religious interpretations and the actual wording are not always compatible, it is true, but no reason to throw out the whole bible because some believe a literal length of time. Since the universe and the earth and all its varied life forms demonstrate order, it is logical that the creative days would have a definite beginning and end. . For example, we might say, "In your grandfather's "day" such and such. That expression refers to a period of time, not a specific number. Likewise, the Creator's timetable would naturally be much longer than a 24 hour day, or even a thousand year day, .I would always leave the door open for discussion and learning, because what if you are mistaken and too dogmatic in your viewpoint to benefit yourself? You may be missing out if a large way.

Also "God" 's original name was the Tetragramaton , which has a stronger connection to the fundamental sacred geometry that governs all material physics, than to some Zeus-like childish god suffering ego-crisis, sitting up on his Jovian clouds.

Sacred texts were written in metaphor to prevent fools from understanding their esoteric meanings, for the sake of preserving their essence.

I don't know if you've read the genesis account or not. I'm inclined to think not. It says "then there was evening and morning the nth day". Obviously this isn't a thousand years or even longer as you seem to be suggesting. Our days have always been 24 hours. The earth didn't suddenly start spinning faster.

For GOD who is able to do anything A DAY is no big deal--and many details not possible without LITERAL DAY-periods. ::bigdeal:: REGARDING DINOSAURS ::whicharementionedinjob40orthereaboutsintheBIBLE:: I would remind that fossils have been found of human footprints within dinosaur-footprints in such a way THAT THEY ARE OF THE SAME TIME+<3

Clearly this raises question to the credibility of scientific dating methods. That's the point. You've been blindly following the lies fed you by mainstream science. And are quick to respond even if it doesn't make sense. The tissue found is obviously not 60 million years old. Why would you believe the city is 70000 years old?

The article did not ignore the fact it blatantly explained how the scientists was wrong because he didn't know that the discovery of soft cell tissue on dinosaur bones was already a thing. Other scientists have encountered it before and long since had an explanation. Instead of being a scientist and researching his claim before trying to debunk something that's long been proven. He jumped the gun because he wanted his religion to win out. It's not like he just casually put the discovery out there. He was a fanatic about it and gained public attention without through research and embarrassed his employers. Any other person would've been fired for that. If he did the research beforehand and was able to effectively back up his claim he would have a chance at court. But the fact that he doesn't proves he did not do his job and that is grounds for being fired. It's a lot like how you didn't fully read the article but posted an inaccurate comment even though the facts were right in your face just to support your unjust claim.

"Its IMPOSSIBLE for it to have SOFT TISSUE still."

And your scientific qualifications to know this to be true are what?

most Christian scientists are not western fundamentalists. In fact in most American churches if the actual beliefs of these Christian scientists were known they would be kicked out as apostate.

I am not against religion. I am not an Atheist. I am against religious fundamentalism in all forms.

here is another list. A list of people burned at the stake by Christianity. Many for scientific views. Others for having any other view than the one championed by the church. It has only been the scientific revolution that has brought this practice to a halt in western countries at least.


The world would be much better off in the hands of men like this instead of reason and science.

You're making a false assumption. A corrupt socio-political entity that appointed itself the representative of the Christian church committed those heinous crimes. The Christians were the ones burned at the stake.

Evidence was found, soft tissue = young dino. True Christians believe in the Word of God as their authority and know that the governments which are and have been, was set up and destroyed for God's purpose. Jesus Christ will return and set up his kingdom, which will forever reign. Have you ever opened up a can of KJV? Here is a good verse to remember, 2 Peter 3:3 Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, 4 And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. 9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.
1 Corinthians 1:18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God
John 3:17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. You see, it is salvation through faith, not through torture. I will pray for you.

So you believe that a man is going to fly down out of the sky on a flying horse and kill millions upon millions of people... and this seems logical and good to you? and this finding of soft tissue proves that a man will fly down from the sky on a flying horse. You also think quoting a bunch of verses from a book written by men about 2,000 years ago who thought all that was going to happen THEN has some kind of magic power over me and everyone else to see that we are all wrong and that a man is going to fly down from the sky on a flying horse. This is true but all the greek myths that sound very similar are false.... ok I get it.. I stand corrected.

"thou shalt not covet thy neighbours wife" and then he poled Joseph's wife ???

Do you wanna know who's truly short minded? You are. You are lumping all Christians into one group, claiming that anyone who follows the religion must be a closed minded right wing idiot. Actually, the majority of us HATE those kinds of "Christians" with a passion. And you're just as bad as they are.

Claire, you are in a minority. the majority of Christians are not like you they are like the other people replying to me here. That's the whole point.

The majority of Christians are neither fundamentalists nor believe the world is only 6,000 years old.

"Christians" "hating, HATING! Other Christians. Nice (Sarcasm).

Claire if you hate Christians maybe you should take a step back, examine yourself, and get into the word. This is not characteristic of a Christian person and you are shaming those of us who really love the bretheren.

No hospitals? No doctors? The dark ages? You're an idiot. I guess Christian hospitals don't exist. Sorry St. Judes. And the catholic college I go to with one of the best nursing programs in the northeast doesn't exist either? Moron.

Of course they exist and they use knowledge that was derived from scientific principles not religion. His point is well made that a fundamentalist view of the world is contradictory to a scientific approach to understanding the world.

You don't have to be religious to uncover scientific and medical truth. But when it comes to *delivering* those benefits to humanity, practicing Christians have the rest of the world beat by far.

It just questions the preconceived idea of the age of the dinosaur. Period. All you write about is it proving religion or Creationism, when it does no such thing!

You do not know this. That is your theory and belief.. So if we find something new for debate we should just stick our fingers in our ears and say la la la? This respected scientist presented his findings for you to look at and talk about. Agree or disagree you keep going back in time for your anti Christian rhetoric.. Christians don't feel this way today... Does Germany want to return to nazi germany? Also finding soft Dino tissue was not a call for magic. Just the fact of discovery.. So you think we have discovered and found everything that we are going to? Nothing more to find huh? Science is done... You believe humans know it all. Well how come we have so many unanswered questions about outer space and our own ocean depths? We know it all. If we don't it must be magic?Cmon... C'mon that's idiotic... You want to say christians want ancient ways of the world? That they couldn't have evolved as well? Then put it all back then... What was common scientific belief in those dark Christian days? I guess we must also return to that time period way of thinking in every aspect not just christians... Fact is we don't gave the answers. Years ago the light bulb telephone cars and flight were absurd and magic. Ooooooh dumb ass. And for your sake you better hope that we humans are it.. That we are the smartest creatures in the universes. That there is no higher power than us because we can barely get off our planet right now. How arrogant to think all we know now is the real world.. Thank God people didn't feel that way 500 yrs ago...400... How about just a hundred ? That that's all folks we know it all stop searching. Silence debate. Name call thinkers or just execute them! We are the most intelligent creatures in the universes..how sad how arrogant.... How stupid! You ever notice that the non believers are the quickest to ask for divine help at the end of their life... It's like your an idiot you God believers. Your stupid. I laugh at you fools.. Then at deaths door it's oh my God please help me! Your arrogance is astounding

Your comment is an unfinished story. You speak about religion being this very negative thing.

You fail to understand something which is very important. If Christianity wasn't a thing in the Roman Empire, everyone would be pagans up until this very day. Do you believe this world is a horrific thing, e.g. the wars in the middle east, ISIS crucifying Christians, they behead children and so on. If you think this is bad, you would not like to know what paganism was like. If paganism was a thing till this very day, the world would be a far more, incredibly chaotic place. Christianity was technically the savior of humanity, you should accept what it has done for the world, but you don't have to deny its beauty and negatively fabricate it.

You also have some common misconceptions. You fail to understand they did not blame everything on demonic possession. Yes, they classified something negative as evil, is there something wrong with that? An illness is bad, what is being bad, e.g. killing people, what is killing people, evil. Their use of the term evil is just a derivation of countless things. You're implying they didn't have remedies, methods of treating illnesses, broken bones and so on. Those pictures you see of people being hurdled by a priest isn't demonic possession, it something they still do till this very day, 'bless' people in the name of god. As these remedies, everything on this earth, is believed to be given by Him, hence the reason why they accommodate religion with their remedies when treating people.

You also act like Christianity or religion is forced upon you or the people in the dark ages. Those people had choices when Christianity was on the rise, hence the reason why as the world went on, freedom of speech and choice was allowed, science was formed in a matter that can try to prove another reason for the existence of humans and the earth. Freedom of belief and speech was given by Christianity, religion today isn't taught in schools and if you want to attend Christian seminars in school, you have to sign a form. Which brings me to my next point.

Evolution-ism is forcefully taught in school under science, without passing science you can't progress an education. It does in fact not mean you HAVE to believe in evolution-ism, however much like in the dark ages, it doesn't mean you have to believe in creationism. So you tell me, what is being forced down our throats here? Indisputable.

As proven evident, I don't actually see how it's arguable, and I don't want to seem rude here much like you wrote on your comment, but your perception of religion is heavily biased and diluted to the point where it seems as though you have a negative agenda among creationism.

This is coming from an engineer, I have a degree in structural engineering so I've been studying science my whole life to even university grade science, it doesn't make me better than anyone else, but I sure as hell know I have a great understanding of both sides of the story, unlike you my friend which was evidence when you proposed your perception of Christianity. Where I not only proposed a normal understanding of what is written in the bible, but a historical and logical analysis too when it comes to creationists and evolutionists.

You’ve managed to unload load more weapons grade stupid in one post that I don’t even know where to begin to respond.

For one, your entire post is built on false assumptions. Who says humanity would stop looking for answers just because there was evidence that supported an intelligent designer? What a stupid ignorant thing to say!

Where would we be if scientists and other members of the academia called into question, Neo Darwinism? Lets see, well, for starters, we’d be a lot closer to academic freedom then we are now. Furthermore, academics that don’t support, or call into question, Neo-Darwinism, wouldn’t be “Billy Clubbed” to death every time they raise an objection to it. Imagine that, academic freedom, what a concept. Would you people like to go back to the dark ages? Are you serious? Why, for following the evidence to where it leads? Ya, lets not do that…that would be science.

“You guys need to think long and hard about what the world would really look like if you guys were in complete control. It would be a very dark and scary place. We would have no hospitals no doctors no medicines no books no learning no freedom of thought no exploration of nature. These are all things that Christians at one time burnt people at the state over.”

I don’t know whether laugh or cry at this statement… You do know that for over two thousand years, Christians have lead the way in trying ease human suffering, whether as doctors, nurses or missionaries. As a matter of fact, Christianity and the church played a fundamental role in the advancement of medicine and the practice of it. No exploration of nature? What? Do you know who David Livingston was? What made some to realize how out of touch with reality you really are was when you included the statement that “there’d be no freedom of thought!” Funny, this is precisely what the article was all about in the first place? Maybe you’ve heard the maxim, “people who live in glass houses, shouldn’t throw stones.”

“What would the Baptists do to the Pentecostals? Or the Protestants the Catholics (let alone all the bloodshed between all the protestant groups). This is what you guys are hanging your hat on. This is what the world would be like without real scientific secular inquiry about nature and reality. The world would be filled with far more pain, suffering and brutality and no magical being would be coming down from the sky to stop it."

Really? The last time I checked, more people have lost their lives at the hands of secular atheistic regimes in the last one hundred and fifteen years than all the religions combined throughout all of history. History stands in aw of the irreligious governments.

I’ll take a "magical being" in the sky over "magic dirt" any day of the week…..

You ask if what we really want is rule by church. No - I would like to be ruled by Jesus Christ of the Holy Bible, that's what I'd really prefer. Perfect love, perfect justice, and infinite intelligence.

At last someone with a Brain! I love this guy.

You guys need to think long and hard about what the world would really look like if you guys were in complete control. It would be a very dark and scary place.

You mean like the Godless Soviet Union in the 20th century?

We would have no hospitals no doctors no medicines no books no learning no freedom of thought no exploration of nature.

Like in Cuba and their pity full hospitals except for ruling elite?

These are all things that Christians at one time burnt people at the state over. Yes 400 years ago...

Psst its 2017 and the vast vast majority of scientific discovery in the 20th century and earlier were by Christians ..

Religion aside. I can't even begin to Imagine how insecure you must feel. This is simply exciting no?

Insecurity is what i felt for the 30 years i was a bible believing born again fundamentalist christian. Pastor and verse by verse bible teacher. I am just trying to get people to think. Now try addressing some of the observations i made. Do ypu disagree?

Tsurugi's picture

Yeah, I disagree. I would say that, while it is certain that in terms of holding back progression, the church certainly played a part, it should also be noted that a religious-based view was the norm up until very recently, at least up until Origin of the Species. All scientific progress up to that point was carried out by men with a religious background. And men with religious backgrounds continue to pursue science to this day, making meaningful contributions, as did the one in this article. Your concept of a religious minded culture being in a permanent Dark Age is an unfortunate but typical portrayal spurred by lack of perspective and knowledge of history, it seems to me.

That said, I thought the guy made a huge blunder in his illogical leap from soft tissue discovery to "therefore 6k creationism". It was stupid in many ways, not the least of which is the apparent assumption of many 6k creationists that if they can just disprove evolution, they will have thus proved 6k creationism by default. What's worse, and more damaging in a scientific sense, is that this assumption has become implicit in the discourse, to the point where any questioning of the validity of evolution is assumed to be an attempt to prove 6k creationism, and is treated as such.

I like you response. that was really good.

Tsurugi's picture

Thank you for saying so. I generally agree with the points you have been making regarding historical impedances to advancement, and the all-too-often horrific punishments suffered by those who in some way threatened the status quo(or perhaps just pissed off the people with status).

On a side note, I have always wondered at the curious "pagan" connections to the practice of "burning at the stake". Sacrificial offerings to the "old gods" was often performed using fire, and the "stake" brings to mind the wooden ritual poles of the Grove of the Goddess or Gofannon's Grove. That such ancient connections to polytheistic beliefs should exist in an execution favored by ostensibly monotheistic Christian leaders is strange, and in my opinion hints that there is more here than at first meets the eye.

That aside, I would urge you and anyone else that happens to read these comments to keep in mind the often dual nature of religious institutions throughout history--the spiritual beliefs and practices upon which they were founded usually have humble beginnings, but eventually they merge with government. It is then that most of their atrocities begin, and they all have the same sort of rotten flavor: authoritarian, despotic governance propped up by an increasingly twisted version of the original spritual practices.
Some people construe this to mean that such spiritual beliefs are a tool of control created by those who would rule, and as such they eschew any spiritualism as the sign of a weak mind, easily controlled by others. But in modern times we have plenty of examples of authoritarian governments which are entirely atheistic, yet commit much of the same horrific, despotic acts of violence on their populaces as did the European "christian" monarchies of the dark ages.
At the same time, we have plenty of examples of religious and spiritual practices which have not become embroiled and intertwined with government, and as such, have not set anyone on fire, or pulled out peoples' entrails on a public stage, and so forth.

The point I am attempting to make is that there have always been, throughout history, people who sought control over others, and these people use whatever tools are at hand to do so, twisting and reshaping said tools to fit their needs at the time. Religion, or an organized following of a spiritual practice, fell prey to this often, and we should certainly learn the lesson of history and be wary of similar uses in the future....but as we have modern examples of despotic barbarism that took place without any religious belief at all being involved, it is clear that such things cannot be blamed on religion or spiritualism.

The depredations of mankind against itself cannot be blamed on the tools of mankind, only on man himself.

By the way, I should note that I do not follow any particular religion.

I haven't read through all the comments, but yours are some of the best I've seen on responses to controversial scientific discoveries. I wish more scientists, atheist and religious alike, could (or would!) think with your balanced perspective.

As a (Christian) scientist, I personally think this guy's article should not have even passed review if it blatantly did not address the previous findings of soft tissues in the T-rex. That's just plain dishonesty in research, and a Christian especially has no excuse for that. But perhaps I am too quick to judge here: I've not yet read the article, but plan to.

Tsurugi's picture

Thank you. I think science and spirituality could do great things if they could ever stop glaring suspiciously at each other and work side by side. Probably never happen, but hope springs eternal....

I too think this a good response. But there is a battle of dogma on both sides--with both eager to point out the blind dogmas at play. Why the soft tissue? Great question. There is no need to conclude there is only one possible answer. And there is no need to preclude possible answers.

Tsurugi's picture

Exactly! That is a perfect summarization of what is happening. Clear and concise. Thank you.


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