Mark Armitage Update: 05 Nov 2014

This is about the lawsuit filed by Mark Armitage. Our most recent post about it was Mark Armitage: “Evolutionists On The Run”. The next few indented paragraphs provide background information, which most of you can skip:

Mark Armitage, described by his supporters as a “scientist,” is an electron microscopy technician who, according to California State University, Northridge (CSUN), was a temporary hire between 2010-2013. While on a fossil hunt in Montana, he found a large triceratops horn.

Back at CSUN, he examined his fossil and saw what he believed to be “soft tissue.” In July 2013 a peer-reviewed scientific journal, Acta Histochemica, published his article: Soft sheets of fibrillar bone from a fossil of the supraorbital horn of the dinosaur Triceratops horridus.

He subsequently lost his job is now suing CSUN. He claims he was fired because his discovery indicates that dinosaurs roamed the earth only thousands of years ago. It’s an old creationist issue. The TalkOrigins Index to Creationist Claims discusses the claim that dinosaur fossils with “red blood cells” have been found, and we’ve posted about the subject before — e.g., Dinosaur Fossils Found with Hot Red Meat?

Armitage’s lawyers are the Pacific Justice Institute, who have handled at least one other creationist case — Caldwell Litigation Against UC.

This is a copy of the complaint that was filed: Mark Armitage vs. Board of Trustees of the California State University, et al. (21-page pdf file). You can check the court docket here Los Angeles Superior Court to see what’s been filed. If you go there, click on “Access your case” and enter case number BC552314.

We checked the docket. All they show after the complaint is that an answer was filed and a Case Management Conference has been scheduled. We’ve been looking, but we haven’t found any news about the case. However, thanks to a tip from one of our clandestine operatives — code named “Big Red” — we learned about this article at the Nature website: University sued after firing creationist fossil hunter.

Most of it is background information, which we already know, but they did some interviewing and one or two new facts were mentioned. We’ll excerpt that material, with a bit of bold font for emphasis:

[S]pecialists in US labour law suggest that his claim of religious intolerance might have difficulty standing up if the case goes to trial. In recent years, a schoolteacher, academic and NASA employee who were creationists have claimed that they were fired unjustly for their religious beliefs. (None were reinstated.) But what makes this case different is that Armitage managed to survive for years in a mainstream academic institution and to publish research in a respected peer-reviewed journal.

Armitage acknowledges that he did that by keeping his views on the age of the fossil out of the paper.

Sneaky. He published his bare findings, and it was only afterwards that he promoted his young-Earth interpretation. They also say:

Written with biologist Kevin Lee Anderson of Arkansas State University-Beebe, the study simply reported that the horn was found in Hell Creek (which has a well-accepted age of 65 million to 70 million years). “It was just morphology,” says Mary Schweitzer, a palaeontologist at North Carolina State University at Raleigh who reviewed the work before publication, and made the first discovery of soft tissue in dinosaur bones in 2005. “It was fine.”

You remember Mary Schweitzer. It was her research that started all the “Hot Red Meat” creationist claims that we discussed in one of our background links. Let’s read on:

According to his lawsuit, Armitage never tried to conceal his beliefs from his employer. The filing says that when he was interviewed for his job at CSUN in November 2009, he did not hide that he holds degrees from the Christian-fundamentalist Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, and the Institute for Creation Research, previously in San Diego, California.

Quite a background! Nature continues:

In an interview with Nature, Armitage said that he was also equally open about his roughly 30 technical articles on microscopy and his 2008 self-published book Jesus is like my Scanning Electron Microscope.

Catchy title! This is a link to the Amazon listing for his book. Here’s one last excerpt:

Armitage freely admits that he often engaged students in conversations, giving his opinion on issues such as the age of the remarkably well-preserved cells in the triceratops horn. “To me, the obvious conclusion is they’re young. They can’t be 68 million years old,” he says.

In terms of getting his job back, those conversations might be Armitage’s undoing. US anti-discrimination laws require employers to reasonably accommodate an employee’s beliefs or religious practices, unless doing so would cause ‘undue hardship’ to the employer, says Justine Lisser, a spokesperson for the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

That’s the news. If we learn any more, we’ll let you know. Stay tuned to this blog.

Update: We checked the court docket. It’s set for trial in 2016, so we’ll keep looking for news about this one.

Copyright © 2014. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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8 responses to “Mark Armitage Update: 05 Nov 2014

  1. Dave Luckett

    “Jesus is Like my Scanning Electron Microscope”


  2. IIRC, some of the Amazon reviews of the book are pretty funny.

  3. I do not understand this obsession creationists have with trying to disprove evolution by proving that dinosaurs were still around 4,000 years ago. There is nothing in the Theory of Evolution that requires dinosaurs to be extinct for 65 million years. There is simply the observation that their is no evidence of the existence of living dinosaurs during the past 65 million years while there is abundant evidence they were common before then.

    If the creationists want to disprove the Theory of Evolution, they should stop looking for 4,000 year old dinosaur fossils and concentrate on finding that very elusive Cambrian rabbit.

  4. It’s simple. They think that if they can find even one or two dinosaur fossils which are only thousands of years old, that proves conclusively that all dinosaurs must have lived recently.

    It’s nonsense, of course. As you point out, they’d be better served trying to find “that very elusive Cambrian rabbit,” Sylvilagus bugsus.

  5. @Stephen Kennedy and @Eric Lipps: An avian dinosaur pooped on my car this afternoon. Evolution is false!

  6. Way off topic, but fascinating: Limb cells turned into genitals in lab

    In order for vertebrates to evolve from the sea to the land, some drastic evolutionary changes were needed. Their ancient sea-dwelling ancestors had no need for external sex organs whereas their land relatives did.

    Now a new study offers insights into the genetic changes that allowed land-dwelling animals to develop sex organs. The Nature research suggests the key to the origin of genitalia lies in the limbs, at least in snakes and lizards.

    Something to think about next time someone offers to shake hands…

  7. gnome de net

    As noted by one reviewer, the copyright page contains this disclaimer:

    This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, names, incidents, organizations, and dialogue in this novel are either the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

    Are all of the characters in this book fictional, including the one mentioned in the title?

    Irony, anyone?

  8. When I was a working scientist, I used a transmission electron microscope. Perhaps I’ll write a book called Thor is like my TEM.