Soft tissue preservation in dinos is fodder for Creationists

As usual, Bible literalists think a few anomalies can overturn our entire established knowledge about the earth. Ain’t gonna happen, guys.

Researchers have discovered what appear to be the remnants of red blood cells and connective tissue in 75 million-year-old dinosaur fossils.

Source: ‘Blood cells’ found in dino fossils – BBC News

The work could shine a light on long-standing questions about dinosaur physiology, including whether specific species were warm- or cold-blooded.

Chemical analysis revealed similarities between blood cells from fossils and those from living emu.

The work appears in the journal Nature Communications.

Here is the abstract:

Exceptionally preserved organic remains are known throughout the vertebrate fossil record, and recently, evidence has emerged that such soft tissue might contain original components. We examined samples from eight Cretaceous dinosaur bones using nano-analytical techniques; the bones are not exceptionally preserved and show no external indication of soft tissue. In one sample, we observe structures consistent with endogenous collagen fibre remains displaying ~67nm banding, indicating the possible preservation of the original quaternary structure. Using ToF-SIMS, we identify amino-acid fragments typical of collagen fibrils. Furthermore, we observe structures consistent with putative erythrocyte remains that exhibit mass spectra similar to emu whole blood. Using advanced material characterization approaches, we find that these putative biological structures can be well preserved over geological timescales, and their preservation is more common than previously thought. The preservation of protein over geological timescales offers the opportunity to investigate relationships, physiology and behaviour of long extinct animals.

The piece from the BBC focuses on the questions that might be answered by studying such material. But there is a curious tangent to this…

In 1992, paleontologist Mary Schweitzer discovered what looked like red blood cells under a microscope from a sample of Tyrannosaurus rex bone. It was controversial in that we had no reason to think such organic parts would survive fossilization of the surrounding bone. She later discovered what appeared to be blood vessels and feather fibers. Creationists leaped upon the findings claiming this was evidence that dinosaurs were not old. Funny how they use “science” findings just when it’s convenient for them. They still failed to address the entire body of evidence from geology, biology and paleontology that shows that the earth is VERY old and animals evolved. There is NO question about this. It’s hard to emphasize that enough. We may not know the age of the earth within a few 10s of millions of years and we don’t know all the animals that ever lived on earth but we KNOW that populations of animals change through time and that we are talking BILLIONS of years, not thousands, that the earth has been around. Creationists’ beliefs are shallow and wrong and they must cherry pick very selective anomalies in nature to support their claims. No epic flood, but an epic fail. 

The current news of preserved blood cells is from not particularly well preserved samples. This is indeed shocking. While it does require us to rethink fossilization processes, it does not require us to overturn the age of the earth or conclude the dinosaurs died in Noah’s flood. It does open up a whole new field of inquiry. Scientists will now examine the fossils they already have lying around in museums to see if a treasure is hidden inside. Soft tissue preservation may be common. Or, the whole idea can fall apart with a explanation as yet to be determined. This is exciting science. Creationism is based on one boring as heck book that isn’t even ABOUT biology. Young Earther’s ideas give us NOTHING ELSE to build on and discover.


Thanks to tipster Bill Turnbull

  27 comments for “Soft tissue preservation in dinos is fodder for Creationists

  1. Ronald H. Pine
    June 10, 2015 at 10:47 AM

    I would contend that if one looks at a sizable chunk of the complete and massive body of Creationist literature that has accumulated over the years, as I have endeavored to do, it is actually quite comprehensive, in that it addresses, in one way or another, somewhere or other, just about any sort of evidence for an old earth and evolution that scientists have come up with. Their positions on all these matters and ways of dealing with them are total BS, but I don’t think that it’s correct to say that they have engaged in cherry-picking to any appreciable extent when it comes to which scientific evidence to attempt to refute.

  2. Mike C.
    June 10, 2015 at 11:43 AM

    Creationists are clueless about science.

  3. GrahamH
    June 10, 2015 at 12:07 PM

    The cartoon does bring to mind the question – if they believe dinosaurs were around a few thousand years ago, what made them extinct? Global flood – okay, so why were they NOT allowed onto the ark?

  4. GrahamH
    June 10, 2015 at 12:13 PM

    If they were allowed, they died off soon after – so why could the all knowing gods figure it out and been more efficient. More space for each beastie, more of each beastie (widening the gene pool), or perhaps give Noah a break by making the ark a little smaller and easier to build.

  5. Ronald H. Pine
    June 10, 2015 at 12:38 PM

    All of the strict literal Bible-believer Young Earth Creationists whose writings I am familiar with are unanimous in the belief that the dinosaurs were on the Ark.

  6. Karl
    June 10, 2015 at 1:34 PM

    Regarding Schweitzer:

    1) Schweitzer’s findings (re blood cells) are still being debated.

    2) She’s a Christian and has been bullyragged by other Christians to make her declare her findings support YEC. But she’s refused.

  7. June 10, 2015 at 1:51 PM

    I said “cherry pick very selective anomalies in nature to support their claims”. That is, they must point to an anomaly or seemingly anomalous event. It’s not the majority. They disregard the mountains of evidence that do not support that view. They are also experts at cherry picking quotes, and repeating them totally out of context. They fail to address how their “evidence” that supports the creation myth is robust enough to undo the tenets of geology, biology and biochemistry that we use as the foundation of scientific understanding and build upon with further research. So, yes, they are experts in being VERY selective to support their points. The premise of Creationism demands it.

  8. June 10, 2015 at 1:54 PM

    I pinged Tom Holtz on Facebook. He says the results are the real deal but it tells us that we “don’t understand decay in sedimentary settings more than anything else.”

    Also, here is the paper.

  9. Richard
    June 10, 2015 at 2:25 PM

    Good question (why weren’t dinosaurs on the ark?). Also, the word in Hebrew literally means a “box” — ancient Hebrew people were not seafarers (the Sea of Galilee is a large fresh water lake), and the wooden “box” would have broken up in a real ocean voyage, especially if there are storms. The torque on the long, wooden structure would have caused it to split. The Greeks and Romans and later Spaniards tried to build wooden ships as large, and they invariably met with failure….

  10. Rich
    June 10, 2015 at 2:28 PM

    If I was Noah I’d balk at having dinosaurs on board, even if God did tell me to.

    According to Ken Ham (and who wouldn’t listen to Ken Ham, renowned paleontologist?) there were dinosaurs on the Ark; although, as even the Christian Post noted, “he doesn’t reveal exactly what happened to them after that.”

    Tripped and fell going down the gangplank when the waters receded, presumably. Hence them all lying face down in mud when we find them now.

  11. Ronald H. Pine
    June 10, 2015 at 2:48 PM

    Perhaps we are not talking about quite the same thing. I’m not sure. The sort of thing that I’m talking about is that I think we’d be hard pressed to come up with any evidence for an old earth and old universe and evolution, that they simply ignore, and for which they haven’t taken the trouble to come up with a counterargument.

  12. Lagaya1
    June 10, 2015 at 5:21 PM

    The one Bible verse I wish they would pay more attention to is the one about putting away childish things when one becomes an adult.

    About the dinosaurs not being allowed on the ark, I bet they accidentally ate from the tree of knowledge, realized they were naked, and God got mad at them. It could happen, as we all know.

  13. Brandon
    June 10, 2015 at 8:44 PM

    Many Creationists don’t think the dinosaurs are extinct. They think the behemoth and leviathan monsters in the Bible are based on dinosaurs (and similar prehistoric animals). That is why the Creationists are so into cryptozoology these days. Through a series of bad reasoning and misunderstandings, they conclude that discovering living dinosaurs and similar animals will disprove the theory of evolution. That is why they are looking for Mokele Mbembe in Africa and the Ropen in Papua New Guinea.

  14. One Eyed Jack
    June 11, 2015 at 8:05 AM

    Yes, you are not talking about the same thing. You’re arguing a position that Sharon never made.

  15. One Eyed Jack
    June 11, 2015 at 8:10 AM

    I like that you make the point to say Young Earth Creationists. YEC represent a minority of creationists. Although there are problems with creationism in general, YEC are uniquely obtuse.

    Too often all creationists are treated as YEC, creating adversaries out of allies.

  16. One Eyed Jack
    June 11, 2015 at 8:13 AM

    Excellent points.

    Standard response, “…because God.” You can’t win that argument with logic.

  17. One Eyed Jack
    June 11, 2015 at 8:26 AM

    Thank-you for the link, Sharon. I couldn’t find it in the article.

    As I suspected. the BBC story is engaging in a bit of click bait. The researches did not find red blood cells or soft tissue. They found chemical remains. Basically, they found amino acids and some partially fossilized structures that resemble tissues. Quite a stretch to insinuate that they found red blood cells and soft tissue.

  18. SmOakley
    June 11, 2015 at 8:51 AM

    I had been informed that “obviously dinosaurs existed with humans, that is where we get dragons” and “full grown dinosaurs would have been impractical so Noah brought dinosaur eggs”.
    So many more problems trying to understand now.

  19. Christine Rose
    June 11, 2015 at 10:15 AM

    One interesting thing about “creation science” is that none of the scientists agree with one another. All the comments made on this thread reflect actual things creationists have argued. I have heard that there were no dinos on the ark–I can’t recall why though. Even if there were dinosaurs on the ark, the population would have dropped to two (or more, depending on what you consider to be a “kind”), and maybe Noah sacrificed both of them in that epic bloodbath described in Genesis.

    Other arguments are that dragons were dinosaurs and survived long enough to pose from some nice pictures, that various artworks (some forged, some just sloppy and misinterpreted) portray dinosaurs/dragons, and so on.

    I can’t be sure, but I don’t think anyone has attempted a comprehensive survey of creationist beliefs. There’s a lot of layers here. The guys who claim to be scientific experts are often cited by people who really disagree with everything the expert has to say, i.e. the Intelligent Design people are not creationists (despite what a lot of people say), yet only creationists take ID seriously. Old Earth Creationism is kind of out of style because it actually predates Darwin and is no longer any sort of reasonable fit to the evidence, but I suspect a lot of people who don’t really think it through would identify with OEC if you asked them to clarify. Yet at the same time I think the OEC people are reading AIG and citing it when people argue with them. And theistic evolution is the most popular opinion, yet when you ask for an explanation it’s “No evidence but I’m sure God must be there.”

    Perhaps the only answer is that it’s all a set of patches, and that you can’t walk through it very far before someone contradicts themselves.

  20. Barry Goldberg
    June 11, 2015 at 4:56 PM

    The creationist mindset is that all it takes is one bit of evidence supporting a theory to be false for the entire theory to be false. Therefore, it doesn’t matter if the extreme age of dinosaur fossils is supported by geology, comparative biology, radiometric dating, etc. If any single bit of evidence in any field that is ever used by anybody to support the fact that dinosaur fossils are extremely old can be proved (or, more likely misrepresented) to be false, ergo God did it.

    The same holds true for any scientific theory that contradicts the Bible. So yes, creationists may be comprehensive in the sense that they have an “answer” against every theory they disagree with, they still cherry pick by ignoring most of the evidence that supports those theories and instead focusing on any single bits of evidence that might be controversial or easy to misunderstand (or misrepresent).

    [Of course, when it comes to evidence that the Bible is literally true, the opposite mindset comes into play. Any evidence whatsoever that can possibly be twisted or misinterpreted to support the literal truth of the Bible is sufficient to prove that the Bible is literally true, despite however many mountains of contrary evidence may be available.]

  21. Russian Skeptic
    June 12, 2015 at 5:16 AM

    Won’t they say that God created the fossil blood cells to test our faith? They have stated it many times when it came to fossils.

  22. Ronald H. Pine
    June 12, 2015 at 10:45 AM

    I’d like to see some figures as to what percentage of Creationists are and are not Young Earth Creationists. The figures that one would come up with would, I think, be largely influenced by what particular definition of “Creationist” one uses. Can you refer me to any studies in regard to this matter? This is not intended to be a hostile question. I really am curious about this.

  23. Ronald H. Pine
    June 12, 2015 at 11:35 AM

    I would maintain that the biblically-literalist, young-earth Creationism is characterized by a great deal of consensus, rather than none of the supposed scientists agreeing with one another. Aside from those Creationists who maintain that dinosaurs never existed (none of whom have even the most rudimentary scientific credentials, as far as I know), I really would like to see a claim by one of them that there were no dinosaurs, in any form, on the Ark. For years I have been avidly reading the Creationist literature and I used to go to every talk and debate on Creationism that I could get to in a three-state area, regularly attend meetings of Creationist organizations, etc. The idea that dinosaurs (and many other extinct “kinds” of terrestrial animal) must have been on the Ark is pretty much inescapable for them. They believe that the dinosaur fossils are the remains of animals that perished in Noah’s Flood and that the rocks that they are found in represent sediments laid down by that flood. If they perished in the Flood, they must have been alive just before the Flood. If they were alive just before the Flood, then they were alive when the god told Noah to take representatives of all the then-existing “kinds” of land animals onto the Ark, and we are told that Noah did so. Thus inescapable logic says that dinosaurs, in one form or another, had to be on that Ark. Also, no Creationist, as far as I know, has ever maintained that there was only one “kind” of dinosaur on the Ark. The differences between the different sorts are too great even for them to squeeze them all into one “kind.” I don’t know how you can maintain the the “Intelligent Design” people are not Creationists. Their claim is that the nature of living things is such that they could not have come into existence by natural means but that their complexities show that they must have been brought into being by supernatural intelligence. This has been a standard Creationist claim from long before the term “Intelligent Design” came into common usage. Although they often pretend ignorance as to just Who or What this supernatural entity might be, from reading their in-house communications, it’s quite clear Who the ID people have in mind. You might Google ” ronald h. pine intelligent design” to see my extended discussion of what I call ID, namely “no model Creationism.” You might run across Part 1 before Part 2, so you’d want to be sure where you started reading. You might also read what you get if you Google “ronald h. pine but some of them are scientists aren’t they,” preferably before you read the first article I just mentioned. It’s a lot shorter for one thing. For reasons too tedious to go into, I didn’t just now provide links to these articles.

  24. Ronald H. Pine
    June 12, 2015 at 11:48 AM

    Although I have heard that claim being made, it is not a feature of the ideology of any more-or-less mainstream Creationist organization that I have ever encountered, nor have I ever found it being made in any Creationist literature that I’ve ever read.

  25. Christine Rose
    June 12, 2015 at 8:53 PM

    I’ll put some thought into where I would have heard that there were no dinosaurs on the ark. Maybe ask some relatives.

    As for ID, evolution is a fundamental part of the theory. There’s no claim that the world was created in more or less it’s current form. I don’t see how people can claim that’s creationism. Indeed, you could have kind of the reverse of the standard cosmological argument (Creator = God because I define that) where the world is uncreated but God/Designer/Mystery Not-God thing makes it too complex to be designed.

  26. Christine Rose
    June 12, 2015 at 10:14 PM

    I have been unable to track down my childhood sources, but here are a couple of websites claiming dinos were not on the arc:

    These are a bit scattershot–I don’t know if there’s some concrete theory popular among some sects that take the dinosaurs off the arc.

  27. RandyRandy
    June 14, 2015 at 5:14 AM

    And what of all the dinosaurs who were aquatic and/or able to (presumably) survive a flood – plesiosaurs, ichthyosaurs, pteranodons, etc? They’d have no use for Noah and his Ark, except as a possible food source. If all God’s little fishies survived, why not the big, hardier ones? And where was ol’ Megamouth during this 40-day veritable feast of drowning critters? Surely he would’ve thrived during the Flood.
    Whoops… there I go, trying to ask rational, scientific questions of irrational, illogical, fiction-based religious belief systems which have no interest in truly understanding life on Earth.

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