Dinosaur Fossils Found with Hot Red Meat?

Creationist arguments never die, they just keep getting recycled. Consider the old clunker about dinosaur fossils being found with juicy red meat still clinging to their bones. We’ve written about that one a couple of times before — see Creationism: A Perverted Time Warp, and also Creationists Defend the Indefensible.

The creationist fantasy that paleontologists keep digging up fresh dinosaur carcasses is all based on the work of Mary Schweitzer who, while still a graduate student, began to research “heme-containing compounds and/or hemoglobin breakdown products in extracts of trabecular tissues of the large theropod dinosaur Tyrannosaurus rex.” That’s from the abstract of one of her papers from 1997: Heme compounds in dinosaur trabecular bone.

Schweitzer’s work is fine, but the creationists keep distorting it. There’s even a rebuttal at the TalkOrigins Index to Creationist Claims. But the beat goes on.

The latest assault on reason can be found at the website of Answers in Genesis (AIG), one of the major sources of young-earth creationist wisdom. AIG is the online creationist ministry of Ken Ham (ol’ Hambo), the Australian entrepreneur who has become the ayatollah of Appalachia.

Their article is Soft Tissue in Fossils It’s the third in a ridiculous series they call “10 Best Evidences From Science That Confirm a Young Earth.” Here we go, with bold font added by us and their links and scripture references omitted:

Ask the average layperson how he or she knows that the earth is millions or billions of years old, and that person will probably mention the dinosaurs, which nearly everybody “knows” died off 65 million years ago. A recent discovery by Dr. Mary Schweitzer, however, has given reason for all but committed evolutionists to question this assumption.

Then AIG proceeds to distort Schweitzer’s findings. Observe:

Bone slices from the fossilized thigh bone (femur) of a Tyrannosaurus rex found in the Hell Creek formation of Montana were studied under the microscope by Schweitzer. … Amazingly, the bone marrow contained what appeared to be flexible tissue.

After more distortion, AIG says:

But if creationists are right, dinosaurs died off only 3,000–4,000 years ago. So would we expect the preservation of vessels, cells, and complex molecules of the type that Schweitzer reports for biological tissues historically known to be 3,000–4,000 years old?

The answer is yes. Many studies of Egyptian mummies and other humans of this old age (confirmed by historical evidence) show all the sorts of detail Schweitzer reported … .

Aha! Those dinosaurs are no older than Egyptian mummies! They end with this:

We conclude that the preservation of vessels, cells, and complex molecules in dinosaurs is entirely consistent with a young-earth creationist perspective but is highly implausible with the evolutionist’s perspective about dinosaurs that died off millions of years ago.

While the creationists are drooling and slobbering all over themselves, Schweitzer has a new paper in Bone (subscription needed), Molecular analyses of dinosaur osteocytes support the presence of endogenous molecules, which describes her discovery of “soft, transparent microstructures in dinosaur bone” and which explains how such DNA evidence (but not red meat, of course) has been preserved for so long.

Nature also has an article about Schweitzer’s latest work: Molecular analysis supports controversial claim for dinosaur cells.

So there you are. Schweitzer’s work appears to be holding up well, and the creationists are — as usual — running amok. Some things never change.

Copyright © 2012. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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42 responses to “Dinosaur Fossils Found with Hot Red Meat?

  1. Alex Shuffell

    It’s always fun to hear creationists use the work of actual scientists. WIth so many doctors and books out I would have thought they could do some original research to test their YEC ideas, I have yet to see any real work from them. I just imagine creationist ‘scientists’ wearing lab coats while googling 20-30 year old commentaries on actual scientific research.

  2. Ancient man appeared to have some skill in depicting the plants and animals they saw in the world around them. Were the dinosaurs simply too scary to include in any of the ancient art that has been found? One might wonder as to why such dominating beasts aren’t found in any ancient symbolism as well. At what point will the AiG need to insist that dragons actually existed?

  3. Charles Deetz ;)

    So why just this once isolated incidence? Why aren’t most dino bones like this? And like so many conspiracy theorists, the ‘why doesn’t this change anyone’s minds’ whine is almost like a blinking sign that maybe they got something horribly wrong. Ala Stupid Otto.

  4. Lying for Jeeezus isn’t a sin to fundies it’s a virtue.

  5. Well, it’s simple really. All of the “professional” creationists like Ham, Wise, Morris and Gish know they are wrong but they don’t care. They don’t have any professional standing to lose so they say the same things over and over again, like a snake oil salesman moving from town to town. New town, new church basement, new protected blog – same spiel.

    Even more so with the professional propagandists that would be everybody associated with the Disco Tute who generate lies and misinformation as part of their job description. They don’t even bother moving from town to town. The irony is that nobody in the scientific / academic community has heard of any of these guys. None of the jolly good fellows have any standing in the scientific community at all. Sure, they pronounce that “evolution is dead” but it’s to an empty room, or a room full of empty heads. But nobody cares.

    Except for those of us who have to get off the couch to run the bums out of the state school board or legislature. Then it becomes a problem, but only a political problem, not a scientific problem.

    So, really, all you can do is use creationists for their entertainment value and laugh at them and mock them. It’s the civil thing to do.

  6. I have access to the original paper. Email me if you want a copy.

  7. Tomato Addict says: “Email me if you want a copy.”

    Thanks, but there’s no need. Unless she says she salvaged enough meat to cook a dino steak.

  8. Jim Thomerson

    Some folks near Glen Rose, TX, were breaking up limestone rock for some purpose. They found a drawing on one of the pieces of rock. One of the people involved was a local school teacher who was convinced she had evidence of human and dinosaur coexistence. The drawing looked like, at least to my imagination, a rotund guy in Bermuda shorts, shooting a Triceratops with a ray gun.

    Through circumstance, I, a MS geology student at the time, was asked to examine the drawing. The rock had layers of fossil clam shells. The drawing was on a freshly broken face, perpendicular to the layers of clam shells, and broken through shells. I interpreted the drawing as a recent artifact. Later the drawing was shown to Professor Jack Wilson, a paleontologist at Univ,. Texas, who pronounced it a fraud. The disappointed school teacher wrote him a letter accusing him of being the kind of person who holds back scientific discovery. I never heard anything more about it.

  9. Christine Janis

    “The drawing looked like, at least to my imagination, a rotund guy in Bermuda shorts, shooting a Triceratops with a ray gun. ”

    It’s interesting that all of the supposed dinosaurs in the various “artifacts” (e.g., the Inca stones) are the handful of dinosaurs that we know about in the middle of last century, and which made their way into children’s books at the time. I.e., “Brontosaurus”, T. rex,Triceratops and Stegosaurus.

    Given how many more dinosaurs we now know existed, let alone the many many more that must have existed but hadn’t been found yet, I find this highly suspicious!

  10. paul collier

    I found the Nature article to be incomprehensible or inconclusive. Were these soft tissues red blood cells or not? Were they re-hydrated soft tissues or not? And did you notice that every one of the commenters to the article were virulent creationists who felt vindicated by the “findings” (whatever they were)?

  11. paul collier says: “I found the Nature article to be incomprehensible or inconclusive.”

    Yeah, it was pretty bad. I shouldn’t have bothered to mention it.

  12. Jim Thomerson says: “The drawing looked like, at least to my imagination, a rotund guy in Bermuda shorts, shooting a Triceratops with a ray gun.”

    Obviously a fraud. A ray gun will only annoy a Triceratops.

  13. Christine Janis,

    Paul

    There’s a lot of debate as to whether these supposed tissues really are the remains of ancient organic material or some sort of bacterial contamination. (I was just at the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology meeting and heard a lot about this.)

    I’m not a chemist/geochemist so I can’t really judge. However, what I will point out is that if the remains really are soft tissues, they are *fossilized* soft tissues, with perhaps some remnants of organic molecules.

    Creationists seem to have the idea that “tissues can’t fossilize” — what they forget is that *bone* is a tissue! The reason why it is more likely to fossilize is because the high mineral content means that is less likely to decay before the process of fossilization can occur. Enamel and dentine, in teeth, are of even higher mineral content, and thus even more likely to be preserved.

    Basically, there’s no reason why *anything* can’t fossilize, it just requires exceptional conditions (in any case, more so for unmineralized tissues). Better techniques have allowed us to recognise and examine such cases. The creationists are sticking to the mantra of a century ago to claim that soft tissues can’t fossilize — evidently they can (plenty of other examples than dinosaur bone).

    If dinosaur bones, etc., were of recent origin then they would *all* contain such organic material. The creationists never seem to think of this.

  14. Christine Janis, says: “I was just at the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology meeting and heard a lot about this.”

    Did you hear Schweitzer speak? What’s she like? How was she received?

  15. Christine Janis,

    I’ve known Mary slightly for many years, since she was a graduate student. I didn’t actually hear her presentation at the meeting (although I heard her student’s) — but she’s always very professional and non-sensational in her approach.
    One thing that was quite funny — I was chatting with her at one of the socials, and told her this new internet story I’d heard from creationists (she says that she never goes to see what they are saying about her — can’t say I blame her). Anyway, I was told by a creationist in a chat group, in no uncertain terms, that Mary had been “fired” from Montana State University because of her “devastating” findings. Of course, I got no response when I pointed out that, no, she’d been a graduate student there and the got her degree. Mary got a good laugh out of that one.

  16. Curmy rightfully mocks, “Aha! Those dinosaurs are no older than Egyptian mummies!”

    And they were used to help build the pyramids. Where do you think Hanna-Barbera got the idea for Fred and Barney using brontos in the Bedrock Quarry?

  17. Then ICR proceeds to distort Schweitzer’s findings. Observe:

    You mean AiG, I presume, unless I missed an article recently.

  18. eyeonicr says: “You mean AiG, I presume.”

    Yup. I goofed up. All fixed now. Thanks.

  19. I have heard Mary’s seminars a couple of times and they are scientifically sound and convincing. Of course nobody believed her research early on, but with much perserverance she continues to confirm her initial findings. One of the more interesting things is that she is quite open about her xian beliefs and that the young earthers have been the most critical of her personally whilst they claim her work. Of course to Ham et al, she is just another one of those ‘compromised Christians.’

  20. Two other requested a copy, which I forwarded.

    Schweitzer writes: The persistence of original cells, retainingmorphology, transparency and flexibility comparable to those in living tissues, in fossils dating to the Mesozoic (~250–65 MYA) is highly controversial. It has been proposed, as mentioned above, that the ‘vessels’ and ‘cells’ arise as a result of biofilm infiltration [43]; but no data exist to support this hypothesis. In fact, localized antibody binding to these tissues that show different patterns of binding, using antibodies to proteins microbes do not produce, negates this hypothesis.

    I’m pretty sure that is secret code for an invitation to a cook-out.

  21. ashley haworth-roberts

    If this hasn’t already been mentioned, Ken Ham and Georgia Purdom have been enthusing on their Facebook pages about the osteocytes story (evidence for a ‘young Earth’ and ‘recent dinosaurs’ you know). Yet they do not highlight the apparent link between dinosaurs and birds – after all they former cannot have evolved into the latter in a once completely flooded 6,000 year old planet, can they?
    A curious/careless YEC asked on Ham’s Facebook page: “It said that the Dino DNA reacts with bird antibodies what’s that all about?”. What indeed?
    Rather predictably, AiG and Mr Ham have ignored the question.
    http://www.facebook.com/aigkenham

  22. ashley haworth-roberts

    Perhaps the Nature article at http://www.nature.com/news/molecular-analysis-supports-controversial-claim-for-dinosaur-cells-1.11637 could have been written more clearly, but it was pointing to research that had ruled out a bacterial biofilm origin for what had been observed from fossilised specimens of Tyrannosaurus rex and Brachylophosaurus canadensis.
    There’s also been some discussion of this osteocytes topic here during the past three days: http://forums.bcseweb.org.uk/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=2967&start=630

  23. The thing I think no one has mentioned yet is that this finding, while very interesting, has no bearing on whether the ToE and accepted geologic timescales are true. If we found a living T. rex or Apatosaur today, or one freshly dead, so what? It would be an awesome discovery, the stuff of every child’s dreams, but it wouldn’t mean that Darwin was wrong, the geologic timescale is wrong, and suddenly Genesis is right. Remember, the coelacanth?

    What the creation “scietists” really need to show is that they have bones of known age (say from the time of Christ, or an Egyptian mummy) that are chemically the same as other fossils of supposedly older age. They need to show that the process of fossilization can happen in a relatively short period of time. Then they need to be able to disprove the dating methods used to date the supposedly “old” fossils. As Charles Deetz said above, they need to explain why almost all other fossils don’t have “soft tissues” in them. If they can do that and demonstrate a recent origin for all other fossils, then they will be able to further their argument, and likely win some Nobels in the mean time.

  24. p.s. I’ve often thought that if I had the money I’d buy one of those frozen mammoths from siberia and have a cookout.

  25. Christine Janis,

    A living dinosaur would do nothing to dislodge the ToE. However, the rocks in which the T rex in question was found were firmly dated as Late Cretaceous. That is the particular problem here — with the resultant claim that the rocks then can’t be that old.

    “As Charles Deetz said above, they need to explain why almost all other fossils don’t have “soft tissues” in them.”

    No, that was me.

  26. @Christine: actually, Charles did say it too, but my apologies for not also crediting you.

    I see what you mean about the dating being problematic, but correct me if I’m wrong, but even an unfossilized specimen from Cretaceous rock wouldn’t mean we’re wrong about the dating or the ToE. We are far from completely understanding how fossils form, and so what if we happen to have here an incompletely fossilized specimen. I think the bigger opportunity here is the chance to further our understanding of the process of fossilization, and understand how a soft tissue could have been preserved for so long, rather than a chance to somehow prove Genesis.

    If there is indeed a soft tissue preserved here, perhaps this could even give us clues as to how to preserve our own cells indefinitely. That could be used for prolonged journeys through space. My point is that Ken, and his ilk, as usual are jumping on a bandwagon that doesn’t go where they want it to go. Hambo and his banjo playing band, need to disprove a whole lot of other science to even start to prove Genesis.

  27. ashley haworth-roberts

    It’s all about persuading some people (some who are already Christians and some prospective Christians) that they can trust Genesis without ‘intellectual suicide’ ie IF they can persuade that dinosaur fossils are ‘recent’ and, if not extant here and there, they only went extinct ‘recently’ then people might reject an asteroid impact 65 million years’ ago, reject Deep Time entirely, and accept that a pair of small/juvenile dinosaurs were saved from a ‘recent’ worldwide flood on board an ark – but then died out subsequently, possibly in the rapid ‘ice age’ that most YECs insist upon.
    As I see it, the task is to discredit evolutionism as a lie or hoax, so as to make Bible-inspired creationism look at least plausible to someone wishing to receive Jesus Christ as their saviour or wishing to persuade others to do so. It’s all about defending the Bible against ‘atheistic’ science, finding ‘answers’, and apologetics in general. Not really about alternative, hard, science.

  28. Instead of thinking about what Creationists might prove, I prefer to start with what is provable. By definition science does not consider the supernatural, therefore any event that requires godlike interventionis not science, right off the bat.

  29. ashley haworth-roberts

    My email as sent to YEC blogger Tim Gilleand in response to his latest blog post:

    Tim

    http://gracesalt.wordpress.com/2012/10/26/two-contradicting-reports-
    from-science/
    “The respected scientific journal Nature reported on 10/10/2012 that
    DNA has a 521-year half-life and that “genetic material can’t be
    recovered from dinosaurs”. This gives a maximum survival age of 6.8
    million years. See the full article here: http://www.nature.
    com/news/dna-has-a-521-year-half-life-1.11555#auth-1
    On 10/23/2012 ScienceDaily reports that analysis of dinosaur bone
    cells confirms ancient protein preservation “and possibly DNA”. See
    the full report here: http://www.sciencedaily.
    com/releases/2012/10/121023151333.htm
    Dr. Mary Schweitzer’s work has long been used by young-earth
    creationists as proof that dinosaurs did not live as long ago as
    radiometric dating seems to suggest. Now there is definitely one thing
    we know here: one of these is wrong! Another quote I feel is
    appropriate here comes from another recent Nature article: “Now we’re
    finally able to look closer, and we’re finding that they’re often
    wrong. But if you think about the tools they had, maybe it’s more
    surprising that anything is right at all.” I agree.
    A recent online friend has submitted this inquiry to the scientific
    community on reddit.com. You can follow any responses here: http:
    //www.reddit.
    com/r/askscience/comments/12554a/under_ideal_conditions_how_long_could_protein/”

    Ken Ham and Georgia Purdom have been trying to persuade their Facebook
    fans this week that this story about dinosaur osteocytes (bone cells)
    is indicative of a ‘young Earth’ – whilst steadfastly ignoring as much
    as possible the bird connection mentioned in the Nature article. The
    researchers concluded that what they saw wasn’t a biofilm produced by
    bacteria/microbes.

    There has been discussion here:
    http://forums.bcseweb.org.uk/viewtopic.php?
    f=1&t=2967&p=42106&hilit=bone#p42106
    And here:
    https://sensuouscurmudgeon.wordpress.com/2012/10/24/dinosaur-fossils-
    found-with-hot-red-meat/

    Meanwhile the moa story is about how long the DNA molecule might last.
    There has been discussion here (I don’t have an email address for the
    Eye on the ICR blogger but will add this exchange under his blog post):
    http://eyeonicr.wordpress.com/2012/10/24/just-how-long-does-dna-last/
    I found the use of the term ‘half life’ here a little confusing.

    It seems that it is now fairly unlikely that DNA could last for
    millions of years in dinosaurs – as was suggested in the 1990s (when
    Jurassic Park was also made). Though I agree that it appears not to
    have been ruled out which does appear confusing/contradictory – there’s
    a reference to DNA (or the remains of DNA) here as well as in Science
    Daily: http://www.sciencedirect.
    com/science/article/pii/S875632821201318X

    Ashley

  30. ashley haworth-roberts

    Please see my comment here at 11.19 pm BST on 26 October:
    http://forums.bcseweb.org.uk/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=2967&p=42154#p42154

  31. Sorry, ashley haworth-roberts, your earlier post got blocked by the software.

  32. Hi folks, an Australian guy and new to this excellent forum supporting reason and truth.
    My late father was a scientist and a christian, but thought YEC ideas were bunkum. I’m not an atheist, and take my elderly Mum to our local church to be with a nice bunch of people. One day, our taxi-driver said “hey, you want to come down to our church because we have a Creation ‘scientist’ visiting”. Oh oh, I’m sorry, busy.
    He turned out to be Dr. Tas Walker of creation.com (they have more doctors than 10 hospitals). So I went to their site and checked out “101 reasons for a young earth”. There were some rude comments (as expected), so I wrote a polite comment as to why human remains have not been found with dinosaur fossils. Not published and I had to contact ‘Dr Tas’ who referred me to their “peer-reviewed links”. What a fraud and I’m sorry you’ve got Hambo stateside.
    Keep up the good work curmudgeon.

  33. Welcome, Carl Segnit. Always good to hear a sensible voice from the Underside.

  34. leostargazer

    Regarding fossilized bones and flesh. They have found fossilized Jellyfish as well. Soft tissues and no bones. So it can happen, but no jelly, sorry.

  35. Here’s an inquiring letter, from a young guy in Australia, to creation.com

    Why can’t I be a christian and accept evolution as well?

    And of course, “Dr” (yes, another one) Don Batten provides an un-scientific response. Ripe for a turkey-shoot curmudgeon.

  36. Carl, Curmy and all – perhaps we should indeed have a ‘turkey shoot’ and add our responses to this fellow’s website; seems like all responses thus far have been amens.

  37. That’s right Douglas E. It’s called “selective omission” and I doubt you will see my (again) polite comment there. Where do we go to help this young man? Curmudgeon is right… debate is futile.

  38. We could recommend that he hang out at the BioLogos and Faraday Institute websites rather than creationist ones. And of course here as well!

  39. Well Douglas, I wish I could contact him, and creation.com DID publish my comment. Check out the reply from ‘Dr Don’.

    “Evolution is a religion” Haha

    That’s the last time I’ll communicate with those guys.

  40. Ashley Haworth-Roberts

    They cite this – ignoring the fact that 12 years’ ago Ruse considered evolution to be sound science, and he has not changed his mind since. I hadn’t viewed Ruse’s article befoore; it’s worth reading even if you think he is being too kind to the likes of Duane Gish: http://www.omniology.com/HowEvolutionBecameReligion.html

  41. Ashley, I did read your link and the last paragraph says it all..

    “And, in the classroom, let us leave it at that. The moral messages, the underlying ideology, may be worthy. But if we feel strongly, there are other times and places to preach that gospel to the world.”

    Yes, and it’s not in public schools here in Australia and thank G** (oops) for that. We don’t have the amount of (stupid) litigation that you folks have stateside.

  42. Carl – we can only hope the fellow will find other places for true dialogue. I too have found that folks like Dr. Don, Ken Ham, Al Mohler are not really interested in thoughtful exchange but rather in defending their faith by attacking those who do not share the details of their particular faith. They should re-read what Augustine had to say about speaking nonsense about the natural world.