Saturday, May 28, 2011

Soft tissue in T. rex fossils

By now, everyone should be aware of the work of paleontologist Mary Schweitzer, who along with other scientific colleagues made the stunning discovery of soft tissues -- including red blood cells -- preserved inside segments of a femur bone of a Tyrannosaurus Rex found in Montana.

This article from the Smithsonian Magazine explains that Dr. Schweitzer even determined the presence of medullary bone, a type of calcium-rich structure that forms inside certain bones in egg-laying animals to provide the calcium in the shells of the eggs, indicating that the Tyrannosaur was a female. Since then, scientists have even been able to find intact protein sequences from the specimens, although not actual DNA.

These findings create a huge problem for conventional models, because -- as the article confidently tells us on the third page -- "Geologists have established that the Hell Creek Formation, where B. rex was found, is 68 million years old, and so are the bones buried in it [the article explains that the T. rex was nicknamed 'B. rex' because the man who first discovered it was named Bob]." The idea that soft tissue could be preserved for 68 million years and that protein sequences could be intact for such an enormous length of time was previously unheard-of, and necessitated extensive questioning of Dr. Schweitzer's findings.

However, instead of exploring the possibility that the geological formation is not in fact 68 million years old, the response has been to throw out the belief that no soft tissue could possibly last that long. Of course, this possibility should be explored, but so should the possibility that the geologic formation and the bones themselves are not really that old. The assumption that the Hell Creek Formation dates to 68 million years ago is based upon uniformitarian geological models that may be completely incorrect.

As explained in this previous post, the hydroplate theory argues that the massive amounts of sediments were laid down very rapidly during a single catastrophic event. There is extensive evidence around the world that this theory may be correct: the presence of red blood cells inside dinosaur bones is simply another data point that adds to the others. In fact, as that post explains, the presence of any fossils at all brings up difficulties for uniformitarian models, because under normal conditions, dead plants and animals decay and do not form fossils. Catastrophic events such as being rapidly buried under tons of wet sediments could produce fossils, but normal conditions do not produce them.

The Smithsonian article, and Dr. Schweitzer herself, express shock and dismay at the possibility that some people are interpreting these findings in this way. The article says "Schweitzer’s research has been hijacked by 'young earth' creationists, who insist that dinosaur soft tissue couldn’t possibly survive millions of years." However, using questioning theories and assumptions should not be written off as "hijacking." It is quite legitimate to question whether tissues such as the ones Dr. Schweitzer found could actually survive for 68 million years. In fact, there are other fossils which contain soft-tissue structures which also call into question the current geological and evolutionary timelines, such as the bird claw pictured here with intact protein sheathing, supposedly 70 to 80 million years old.

Further, it must be pointed out that believing that a relatively recent world-wide flood killed many creatures and created most of the world's fossils does not ipso facto mean someone is a "young earth" creationist, as Dr. Schweitzer and the Smithsonian Magazine seem to imply. It is of course possible to argue that such an event took place, and then to explain the origin of the earth by a host of other theories.

If there were no other evidence that called into question the existing geological models, then it would be prudent to conclude that perhaps all the previous knowledge about tissue degradation is wrong, and that soft tissues can somehow survive in some cases for tens of millions of years. The existence of this soft-tissue evidence necessarily overturns some longstanding assumptions. However, the presence of extensive evidence that numerous features of the earth were created by catastrophic rather than gradualist forces argues that perhaps the wrong assumptions are being thrown out. After all, is there extensive other evidence that soft tissues can last millions of years?

For other posts discussing geological evidence that supports the hydroplate theory, see here, here and here.

The possibility that there was in fact a cataclysmic flood which had certain effects on the planet consistent with the laws of physics not only explains the presence of these soft tissues, but would also shed light on numerous mysteries of mankind's ancient past as well. This line of examination is the subject of the Mathisen Corollary.