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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

Comments

Tsurugi's picture

I disagree that theological interpretations are static; they can and do change over time. Individual people quite often will refuse to change theologically, but this is mitigated by turnover--i.e., birth and death, conversions and losses.
Science does have a framework which supports constant change according to new data, but it is based on a philosophical approach to knowledge which basically states, "Since we cannot possibly ever know everything, we can therefore never actually know anything for certain," and continues on from there, explaining falsification and the merits of seeking to prove one's ideas as wrong rather than prove them right, which besides being technically impossible can lead to pesky ego problems that can corrupt the data.

But how many eminent academics do you think hold to that philosophy? Most of them give the impression they think they know everything, which is some distance from acknowledging they know nothing at all for certain and can only make educated propositions.

In my opinion, there are indications that the same kinds of people who mangled western religion for so long are now doing the same with science. Thats not to say science is delegitamized, or that no real science is being done...it isnt, and there is. But as with what happened with western religion, the administrative positions soon were filled with people who were agents of government. It's downhill to dogma from there.

As for Adam and Eve and a 6,000 year old universe, I totally agree that it's unlikely to be the answer here, but your use of the word "never" prompts me to suggest you take another look at the Many-Worlds theory of cosmology, a favored idea in the mainstream consensus. Among its many interesting ramifications is the implication that there is, in fact, a universe out there somewhere in which the 6k Adam and Eve thing is exactly what happened....and it might even be this one(though I doubt it).
I find this to be a delicious irony, specifically because for some factions within mainstream academia, one of the most attractive things about Many-Worlds was that it provided a solution to the unbearable yet undeniable issue of the so-called "God numbers" and to a lesser extent the strong anthropic principle, both of which, without going into specific details, can be summarized thus:
"In the first few billionths of a nanosecond after the Big Bang, the basic, fundamental properties of the Universe as we know it took shape, stabilized, and solidified into permanence. The number of possible configurations of these fundamental properties is practically infinite in scope, none of which would have resulted in a universe that could sustain life as we know it, aside from the one very specific configuration which our universe has. This makes our universe infinitely improbable to arise from a random post-big-bang formation. Since we are here, it implies the formation was not random, and that implies that in some way, the Universe may exist so that we would also exist."

As annoying as that was for dedicated atheists and material reductionists, the math and the logic were practically unassailable. The Many-Worlds hypothesis side-steps the conundrum by way of answering the paradox illustrated in Schroedinger's Cat thought experiment: the wave doesn't collapse upon observation, nor does the cat remain in a quantum superposition of both alive and dead states until the box is opened...instead, the universe splits into two, one where the cat is alive and one where he is dead.
This implies that all possible universes exist, in all their infinite variety, which also happens to conveniently remove the sticky problem of our universe being infinitely improbable in a random formation. In Many-Worlds, our universe is not only probable, it is inevitable.
Then again...so is the Adam and Eve 6k universe, and the universe with the Big Rock Candy Mountains on a moon that's made of cheese, or any universe you can think of and many you can't. In Many Worlds, all of them, no matter how improbable-sounding or unlikely seeming, are inevitable. The most you could accurately say is that the Adam and Eve 6k universe is unlikely to be this one we happen to be in. But it's out there somewhere, and in this case has a scientifically legitimate theoretical existence, lol. I find this hilarious in the extreme.

Change does happen. It just takes a while. Tvis is the way it has to be or you run off chasing all kinds of false ideas and. Conclusions.

They are finding human civilization goes back way further than the recent models and are slowly but surely being forced to adapt to the new info.

This is something creationists can never do. Because their views. Are based on theological interpretatios and peer pressure and the fear of hell.

The actual truth we end up finding over the next couple humdred years is going to be very interesting to see but it never be that there was an adam and eve or that the universe is 6000 years old.

Tsurugi's picture

Agreed. Although in his defense, leaping to conclusions takes place all the time. It's only when those conclusions go against current scientific concensus that they are challenged. If he had declared that "despite finding soft tissue, there is no reason to question whether these remains may be younger than our current scientific understanding suggests" do you think anyone in academia would have made a fuss?
I don't...many of his critics are saying nearly those words exactly and no one is firing them or challenging them in the slightest. It's all very disturbing in my opinion, because the fact is that complex organics should not survive intact for tens of millions of years according to current scientific understanding either, so something, somewhere, is wrong, perhaps in our understanding of chemistry, or perhaps in our understanding of geological history and thus in our accepted timeline of the past. Both areas need to be critically re-examined in light of evidence like this, and other possibilities brought to light and explored.

But that won't happen. The assumptions have already been made that the timeline CANNOT be wrong, that there must be some overlooked chemical answer to the preservaion. Even if it turns out to be true, the assumption should not have been made, and having been made, should have been challenged. It wasn't.

So do we really have any science going on? Or is what we call "science" more often just a modern day "answers from authority" system similar to what governments did with religions in the past?

See how fast this turns into a theological debate. There's no understanding of the fact that the man was fired for not doing his job, which was to do research and investigate the phenomena rather than to leap to conclusions based on his religious beliefs.

Mat 17:2 And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.
Mat 17:3 And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him.

If Moses and Elias are in dreamless sleep how did they speak with Jesus?

Luk 16:24 And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.
Luk 16:25 But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.

Yet another example of dreamless sleep from the Bible?

God is eternal entity, his rewards and punishments have an eternal consequence.

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