It looks like we have yet another creationist lawsuit to watch. We learned about this one from the Los Angeles CBS website: CSUN Scientist Fired After Soft Tissue Found On Dinosaur Fossil. They say, with our bold font:
Attorneys for a California State University, Northridge scientist who was terminated from his job after discovering soft tissue on a triceratops fossil have filed a lawsuit against the university.
It appears that CBS is getting the story from only one side of the controversy, so we need to exercise caution in reaching any conclusions. It’s extremely doubtful, in our humble opinion, that anyone would be fired for discovering a fossil. We’re also told:
While at the Hell Creek Formation excavation site in Montana, researcher Mark Armitage discovered what he believed to be the largest triceratops horn ever unearthed at the site, according to attorney Brad Dacus of Pacific Justice Institute.
The Pacific Justice Institute? They like to handle creationist cases. We’ve run into them before — see Caldwell Litigation Against UC: Dismissal Affirmed on Appeal. Wikipedia has an article about them: Pacific Justice Institute. They seem to be the right outfit for a case like this. They have a press release about it at their website: University Silences Scientist After Dinosaur Discovery. It says:
When examining the [triceratops] horn under a high-powered microscope back at CSUN, Armitage was fascinated to see the soft tissue. The discovery stunned members of the scientific community because it indicates that dinosaurs roamed the earth only thousands of years in the past rather than going extinct 60 million years ago.
According to court documents, shortly after the original soft tissue discovery, a university official challenged the motives of Armitage, by shouting at him, “We are not going to tolerate your religion in this department!”
Here’s a copy of the complaint that was filed: Mark Armitage vs. Board of Trustees of the California State University, et al. It’s a 21-page pdf file. We haven’t read it yet. Okay, back to CBS:
Armitage’s findings were eventually published in July 2013 in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.
Really? It was published a year ago and it hasn’t been in the news until now? CBS gives this link to the published article: Soft sheets of fibrillar bone from a fossil of the supraorbital horn of the dinosaur Triceratops horridus. It was published in Acta Histochemica, which is indeed a peer-reviewed journal.
So what happened after that? It’s not clear at all. The only thing we hear from the other side of the case is this:
CSUN spokesperson Carmen Ramos Chandler told CBSLA Armitage was a temporary hire between 2010-2013 and worked as an electron microscopy technician. She could not comment on the lawsuit as university officials had not yet received the complaint.
So all we have is the plaintiff’s side. The poor guy found a fossil, published about it, and then … Ka-Boom-O, he’s expelled! Could there be any more to the story? We strongly suspect that there is, but we’ll have to wait and see how the case progresses. Oh wait — CBS adds this at the end of their story:
The discovery is the latest in several recent – and controversial – soft tissue finds by archaeologists: researchers last November claimed the controversial discovery of purported 68-million-year-old soft tissue from the bones of a Tyrannosaurus rex can be explained by iron in the dinosaur’s body, which they say preserved the tissue before it could decay.
We’ve had posts about soft tissue alleged to have been found on dinosaur fossils before, for example: Dinosaur Fossils Found with Hot Red Meat? Those never amounted to anything. But this could be the case that finally brings down the horrid house of Darwin. Stay tuned to this blog!
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