How a T-Rex destroyed my faith

Like nearly every little boy I know; I grew up fascinated with dinosaurs. In museums, the only thing I wanted to see were the fossils and the reconstructions of life-size dinosaur skeletons. I devoured any dinosaur book I could find. I was enthralled with the Discovery Channel programs about them. The only thing that could have made my childhood fascination with dinosaurs complete was if the Lego company had come out with a line of dinosaurs. Much of their fascination came from their size and the mystery surrounding their disappearance. Was it an asteroid? Rapid climate change? Super volcano eruption? A combination of those or other unknown factors?

As I got older my fascination didn’t wane, but I became aware of a problem. The popular story surrounding dinosaurs and how long ago they lived was at odds with the account in the Bible of the world’s beginning. Even as a child I began to be aware that they couldn’t both be true and so for a time I lived with this sort of cognitive dissonance. Everything seemed to point to the fact that dinosaurs had lived millions of years ago. And yet I also believed that God created the world in six days, no where near that long ago. My struggle continued until a T-Rex came along and settled the debate.

Let me begin by saying that it was not my faith in Jesus that was destroyed by a T-Rex fossil; but my faith in science. Or, to be more precise, it was my faith in the vaunted objectivity of science that was destroyed. But first, some definitions.

FAITH: One of the greatest definitions of faith in the Bible comes from the book of Hebrews. “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1.

Another picture of faith is given in the encounter that Jesus has with one of his disciples after his resurrection. The other ten disciples had already seen Jesus in the flesh, but Thomas wasn’t there. When they delivered the incredible news that Jesus was alive Thomas didn’t believe. He refused to believe. He said, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into his side, I will never believe.” Eight days later Jesus came and stood before Thomas. Jesus said, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas proclaimed, “My Lord and my God.” To which Jesus responded, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:19-29)

SCIENCE: Now this is how Webster defines the word “science,” and it’s a pretty basic and standard definition. “Science is knowledge about or study of the natural world based on facts learned through experiments and observation.

The problems all began with a T-Rex bone in 1991. “In 1991, [a scientist by the name of Mary] Schweitzer was trying to study thin slices of bones from a 65-million-year-old T. rex. She was having a hard time getting the slices to stick to a glass slide, so she sought help from a molecular biologist at the university. The biologist, Gayle Callis, happened to take the slides to a veterinary conference, where she set up the ancient samples for others to look at. One of the vets went up to Callis and said, ‘Do you know you have red blood cells in that bone?’ Sure enough, under a microscope, it appeared that the bone was filled with red disks. Later, Schweitzer recalls, ‘I looked at this and I looked at this and I thought, this can’t be. Red blood cells don’t preserve.’ Schweitzer showed the slide to Horner. ‘When she first found the red-blood-cell-looking structures, I said, Yep, that’s what they look like,’ her mentor recalls. He thought it was possible they were red blood cells, but he gave her some advice: ‘Now see if you can find some evidence to show that that’s not what they are.

Instead, Mary discovered collagen consistent with blood vessels along with red blood cells, in the thigh bone of that juvenile T. rex in Montana. ‘What we found was unusual, because it was still soft and still transparent and still flexible,’ she says. Her discovery excited much controversy in the evolutionary community, as it seems quite impossible that anything could preserve something so chemically fragile for millions of years. Evolutionists date the first dinosaur in which Schweitzer found the soft tissue to 68 million years ago. Many insisted the material she had found must be microbial contamination because no known process could account for such long preservation of organic material in bone, the molecules of which tend to be readily broken down and particularly for the preservation of its pliability and elastic qualities. In ongoing studies, Schweitzer has discovered soft tissue and confirmed the presence of collagen in other dinosaur specimens alleged to be 145.5 to 199.6 million years old.” “Dinosaur Shocker,” Smithsonian Magazine, May 2006.

All of that left one large question; how could soft tissues survive for millions of years? “Schweitzer and her team noticed that iron particles are intimately associated with the soft tissues preserved in dinosaurs. But when they chelated – or removed the iron from – soft tissues taken from a T. rex and a Brachyolophosaurus, the chelated tissues reacted much more strongly to antibodies that detect the presence of protein, suggesting that the iron may be masking their presence in these preserved tissues. They then tested the preservation hypothesis by using blood vessels and cells taken from modern ostrich bone. They soaked some of these vessels in hemoglobin taken from red blood cells, while placing other vessels in water. Two years later, the hemoglobin-treated soft vessels remained intact, while those soaked in water degraded in less than a week.

“We know that iron is always present in large quantities when we find well-preserved fossils, and we have found original vascular tissues within the bones of these animals, which would be a very hemoglobin-rich environment after they died,” Schweitzer says. “We also know that iron hinders just about every technique we have to detect proteins. So iron looks like it may be both the mechanism for preservation and the reason why we’ve had problems finding and analyzing proteins that are preserved.” For more information click Here Since her initial findings, soft tissue has also been observed, not just in well-preserved dinosaur bones, but in what some call “junk” fossils as well.

So, here is the problem. Many people were rightly disconcerted about the discovery of soft tissue in fossils. That discovery called into question the popular narrative that dinosaurs lived millions of years ago. And so, when Mary discovered the preservative effects that iron can have on soft tissue in a lab setting over a short period of time they jumped at that life-line. But in doing so, they made an incredible leap of faith. The conclusions reached by some scientists that want to extrapolate the results of a two-year experiment into millions of years isn’t science. Its faith. Remember the definition of science is “knowledge about or study of the natural world based on facts learned through experiments and observation.” Based on the tests performed indicating the possibility of iron acting as a preservative, at best an honest person could conclude that, under strictly controlled laboratory conditions iron has a preservative effect over the spans of a few years. To extrapolate that observable and repeatable finding, into millions of years isn’t science. Its faith. It’s the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen. Perhaps those big old bones aren’t as old as we were led to believe…

An article on Mary Schweitzer’s find from the Smithsonian

Another article looking in more depth at this soft-tissue find

Advertisements

14 thoughts on “How a T-Rex destroyed my faith

  1. Would be interesting to know if there would actually be a difference between a 1-year old bone, 10-year old bone, 100-year old bone, 1,000-year old bone, and 1,000,000-year old bone. Seems to me that after a few years not much else would decay, so what difference would there be between 10,000 years or 68,000,000?

    Like

    1. Maybe you didn’t read the article to the end…that was the whole point of it. That scientists had discovered iron’s preservative effects. The problem is that they found that iron is able to preserve soft tissue over a period of two years in controlled laboratory conditions. That is a testable conclusion. Then, unfortunately, they made the leap and said that answered the original question; “how could soft tissue still be present after millions of years.” That they did not prove. Once they made that assertion they were making a faith statement not a scientific statement.

      Like

  2. Okay, but here’s the question (and I ask this sympathetically, not trying to pick a fight or anything): could the iron reasonably be expected to preserve the tissue over a period of several thousand years? If not, we’d have to assume T. Rexes were running around last Tuesday.

    Now, if it can preserve the tissue for thousands of years, at what point beyond that would it cease to do so?

    Those are the questions that need answering.

    Like

    1. Good question Rod…And I agree that those are questions that are worth answering. The issue in the article (for lengths sake) is knowing the difference between what has been scientifically verified and what is believed on faith. To your question “now if it can preserve the tissue for thousands of years, at what point beyond that would it cease to do so?” is that outside of an experiment running millions of years its all a matter of faith. Which is why, as you read the early articles about the soft-tissue discovery, you see how much push back Mary got from the scientific field. That find didn’t fit the agreed upon belief about the time-scales involved. There were attempts to discredit her, and to explain away the finding due to contamination. Finally, when the evidence was incontrovertible the search began on how to explain it. And many people breathed a sigh of relief when iron was found to act as a preservative under controlled laboratory conditions for a period of two years. There is an enormous difference between thousands of years and 75 million.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. jamesuglum: I quite agree. I just think this argument is going to be a lot less potent than it might be until these questions are addressed. I do not have the expertise to address them, but others must. It would be a worthy topic for ICR (among others), though it would be helpful if a more mainstream institution took it on.

        Like

      2. I agree Rod. I believe Mary and her team are continuing their research into the preservative effects of iron on soft tissues. In the short term its just another thing that undermines the narrative that says the science is settled on this issue.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I’d say the perceived conflict between faith and science is based on a misreading of the text, reading a poem as though it’s a scientific textbook or something. Early on in my faith I kind of swallowed whole this idea that to be a Christian I needed to believe in literal 6-day creationism, but I’ve changed my mind since. A book called “God and Evolution” by RJ Berry (an evangelical biologist) was a big help. What’s interesting in the whole controversy is to look at the history and see how comparatively recent the dichotomy is. During Darwin’s time and for the following decades few Christians saw a necessary conflict – that came later. I speak to you since you are clearly a thoughtful individual who knows how to read the Bible. Militant 6-day creationists are people I tend to give a wide berth. I think of texts like Titus 3:9 where Paul tells Titus to “avoid foolish controversies and genealogies…”, because I really do think this issue is a distraction from what is important in the Gospel, and one that makes Christians look like fools, especially if they insist everyone agrees with them about the age of the earth etc. As for the evidence you present, I’d say it is cherry picking, and ignoring a vast weight of scientific evidence to the contrary.

    Like

    1. Thanks for the comments Jon. I do agree that for some Christians, this one particular topic becomes such a big issue that it overshadows the good news in Jesus. Ultimately science can neither prove nor disprove the existence of God, and so it is foolish to let this issue become a distraction. But having said that there are plenty of people out there who feel that science can be used to disprove God.

      What in the evidence that I cited did you feel was cherry picking? I could have gone into other areas of “established” science that points to an extremely long age for Earth, but that wasn’t the point of the post and for the sake of brevity I chose the soft-tissue issue as it highlights the current double standards of many in the scientific community who want to denigrate faith on the one hand but then make faith statements themselves.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Jon Stammers: I will not be overly concerned if, upon reaching Heaven, God tells me that He created the world using the Genesis Device from Star Trek II, and that we are all descended from Furbies.

    Nevertheless, three points.

    1. Jesus and the New Testament writers clearly take the Genesis account quite seriously. In that the writers were inspired by the Holy Spirit and Jesus was and is Himself God, by Whom and through Whom all things were created, we have to give that proper weight.

    2. Much of what they teach at least seems to require a literal Adam and Eve, who were literally made perfect and who literally fell, and from who the entire human race has literally descended. Contradicting this causes…problems.

    3. Finally, the rather larger point: the real issue captured in the article above is not whether or not the Earth is old or young, but the degree to which “science,” like everything else, rests on the testimony of others. I did not personally witness the creation, nor did I witness evolution, nor did I witness the Big Bang: I have no personal knowledge — nor does any other living person save God alone — of the reality of those events.

    (Crucially, not only does no one have personal knowledge of any instance of speciation, but there does not appear to be any physical evidence of it ever having happened; but I digress.)

    As the writer points out, we take all of these things based on the testimony of others. We are told to accept as virtually certain the word of a great many men and women we know to be trusting a great many other men and women whom we must blindly trust not only to be correct but to have pure motives in reporting what they find. Yet we know that they have evil motives — because they are largely unregenerate, all of them fallen — and we also know that they are fallible: their profession quite recently believed there was no such thing as relativity, no such thing as quantum mechanics, no such thing as a Big Bang, no such thing as a heliocentric solar system, no way to conduct heavier-than-air flight, and a thousand other foolish yet dogmatically held certainties.

    Against this, we have the Creator of the universe, Who is incapable of error and Who loves us with a pure heart. adopting us as His own sons and daughters.

    Who should I trust if there is a conflict? Fallible, corrupt strangers or the lover of my soul?

    None of this is to say that the scientists aren’t right; nor is it to say that my faith — rooted in my lifelong relationship with Him and in His demonstrated trustworthiness — would be shaken if I were to discover this afternoon that we live in The Matrix, or some other wild and unexpected revelation.

    It’s simply to put the testimony of these scientists in perspective. God is sovereign and God is truthful, and God is the only witness to the events of creation. Scientists are the people who bled George Washington to death and were stampeding us into socialist “solutions” for the certain coming manmade Ice Age just a few years back. So I am highly interested in everything they have to say because frequently they get it right, and because they improve upon themselves as time goes on. But that improvement itself implies a degree of error of which God is incapable; and therefore, I will trust Him for the framework and the boundaries in which I judge their ever-changing “truths”.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. On your suggestion, I took a look. This is a common creationist folly, running with an idea without understanding what it actually means, if it sounds like it supports your beliefs. I strongly suggest that you do two things: First, read what Mary Schweitzer has said about how creationists are portraying her discovery, and then say the following to yourself: “When we don’t understand something, even though it’s very tempting to fill in that gap with what we’d like to be true, the only honest things to be done are to either admit our ignorance or investigate the subject in a rigorous fashion.”

    Like

    1. Thanks for your look and assessment. I have already read what Mary Schweitzer has said about how creationists are portraying her discovery. I can empathize with her feeling that her finding is being badly used.

      There are two tempting logical leaps that can happen with her news. One, is for creationists to point to it with 100% certainty to make the claim that soft tissue cannot last millions of years. The second logical leap is for scientists like Mary to claim that the discovery doesn’t challenge their hypothesis at all.

      You can see some scientists making that leap in the latest findings that they have published where they have demonstrated that iron rich blood can survive intact over a period of a few years. They point to this as confirmation that it is then possible for it to survive millions of years.

      I am sure that some scientists will continue to investigate the subject further, but there simply is no repeatable observable experiment that can be done to prove the assumption that soft tissue can survive intact over that time period, unless we’ve got another 65+ million years to wait and watch it.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s