Soft tissues in dinosaur bones: a closer look at the philosophical conflicts


T.Rex at the Creation museum

Dr. Schweitzer has clearly shaken up the scientific community. She tossed a controversial hand grenade into the bunker of conventional evolutionary scientific thought, and now the scientists down in the bunker are frantically grasping around trying to put the pin back in before it blows them to pieces.

As we saw in the previous article, her evidence is the kind that produces contentious arguments. But she is no newcomer to this battle arena. She is taking risks. She is caught in the middle of an on-going battle of worldviews.

PUSHING THE ANTITHESIS WITHIN ATHEISTIC SCIENCE

As Dr. Bahnsen and Van Til wrote, there is an antithesis between the Christian worldview and all non-Christian opposition worldviews. The worldview of unbelief is always in constant conflict with our worldview of belief. An unbeliever’s theory of knowledge is informed by their ethical hostility to God.

There is a constant antithesis, in other words, at play between Christians and non-Christians. This is certainly true of the modern institutional science guild, which can be likened to the court prophets who were employed specifically to tell the King all which he found favorable so that he could pretend that his actions were being divinely sanctioned by the Lord. (1 Kings 22:5-40) But in our day, the modern science guild (particularly astrophysics) is paid to speculate on the origins and destiny of human life using pseudo-science (that is more philosophy than science) founded upon the presupposition that there is no sovereign God who neither 1) providentially and personally sustains the universe nor 2) has revealed himself to us.

In this particular war, those delicate presuppositions become uncovered as the tents of self-deception are torn to tatters by sharp-edged evidences criss-crossing the skies above the battle fields. Consequently, their sensitive surfaces become exposed to the harsh winds of truth, and the soldiers in the encampments scurry about as they try to tie down what flapping fabric that remains.

EVOLUTIONARY STRONGHOLD UNDER ATTACK

Ultimately, this is a battle to hold the evolutionary stronghold that is being stormed from all sides by the armies of reality, and all the while it’s crumbling from within. Faith in time — millions and billions of years — is the last gate keeping the enemies at bay, and as new evidence continues to mount the gate’s once-strong timbers are finally cracking under the force of the invading army.

Despite all hopes by the evolutionary, establishment science guild, the gates and walls defending the foundations of a stronghold whose towering spires continue to crumble under constant aerial bombardment will not prevail against the truth. Despite over 150 years of the Darwinian evolutionists constantly pushing and criticizing and condemning and indoctrinating in public schools, as Gallup recently reported less than 15% of the population believes in godless evolution compared to 46% who believe in divine creationism.

Furthermore, in the last 30 years, evolutionary science has made practically no advance whatsoever in winning converts away from creationism. Its ascension has stalled, and only scientists and liberals tend to be found parading down mainstreet still clothed in their imaginary fabric of evolutionary theory.

So, with that background in mind, and noting the constant conflict between the worldviews of Christians and non-Christians, it is insightful to examine the details of the antithesis at play.

SHOCK AND DISBELIEF QUAKE THE FOUNDATIONS OF MODERN SCIENCE

In a May 2006 article published by Smithsonian Magazine titled “Dinosaur Shocker,” the conflict was established and framed within the first few paragraphs:

Schweitzer, one of the first scientists to use the tools of modern cell biology to study dinosaurs, has upended the conventional wisdom by showing that some rock-hard fossils tens of millions of years old may have remnants of soft tissues hidden away in their interiors.

As noted in the previous article, several scientists have framed Schweitzer’s discoveries as an all-or-nothing gambit. Her discovery will either revolutionize the field or it will amount to nothing at all. There is no rhetorical room left for her work being classified as simply gradual progress made within the field of paleontology; this is a leap. Will she clear the canyon, or fall short?

In the Smithsonian article, paleontologist Thomas Holtz Jr., while noting that it is nevertheless great science, certified the legitimacy of this all-or-nothing assessment by noting the peculiar circumstances surrounding her discovery. He said “The reason it hasn’t been discovered before is no right-thinking paleontologist would do what Mary did with her specimens. We don’t go to all this effort to dig this stuff out of the ground to then destroy it in acid.”

That is worth repeating: no “right-thinking” scientist would do the things she did. But why not?

That reason is stated rather plainly in another article in Discover Magazine from April 2006 titled “Schweitzer’s Dangerous Discovery”:

By all the rules of paleontology, such traces of life should have long since drained from the bones. It’s a matter of faith among scientists that soft tissue can survive at most for a few tens of thousands of years, not the 65 million since T. rex walked what’s now the Hell Creek Formation in Montana. But Schweitzer tends to ignore such dogma. [Emphasis added]

Notice the author’s use of the word “dogma.” The word has a few meanings. According to Merriam-Webster, one is “something held as an established opinion.” A second definition is “a doctrine or body of doctrines concerning faith or morals formally stated and authoritatively proclaimed by a church.”

Furthermore, the author also uses another key word: faith. They have faith in their belief that soft tissue can’t last longer than tens of thousands of years. What is their belief founded upon? Their presuppositions about the nature of reality. There is no scientific evidence supporting such a belief; it is simply a belief in the hope that the earth must be billions of years old because, for evolution to be true, billions of years must be true.

This is the same faith that results in the conventional scientific thinking that you can’t use carbon-14 dating to measure the age of dinosaur bones. Carbon-dating is only good for up to 50,000 years, they authoritatively proclaim, and since dinosaurs are millions of years old then the method can’t possibly produce reliable results.

How do they know dinosaurs are millions of years old? Faith in the same presuppositional belief that is now being attacked by the discovery of soft tissues in (presumably) extremely old dinosaur bones. (They date the rocks that the bones are found in.)

The very nature of this conflict is religious to the core. The language used by the writers of these articles, whether they realize it or not, is religious language; their knowledge of God betrays them. Though they would argue otherwise, saying that they are simply being neutral about the subject, we know that neutrality is a myth.

UNCONVENTIONAL THOUGHTS BREED PROGRESS

So what were the advantages of Dr. Schweitzer’s emperor-is-naked thinking?

[It] has allowed her to see things other paleontologists have missed—and potentially to shatter fundamental assumptions about how much we can learn from the past. (Source: Discover Magazine)

The Smithsonian article records the tone of caution Schweitzer has employed in her published findings:

Inside the dinosaur vessels are things Schweitzer diplomatically calls “round microstructures” in the journal article, out of an abundance of scientific caution, but they are red and round, and she and other scientists suspect that they are red blood cells.

Despite the caution, later discoveries during that time period continued to pile on the support:

Further discoveries in the past year have shown that the discovery of soft tissue in B. rex wasn’t just a fluke. Schweitzer and Wittmeyer have now found probable blood vessels, bone-building cells and connective tissue in another T. rex, in a theropod from Argentina and in a 300,000-year-old woolly mammoth fossil. Schweitzer’s work is “showing us we really don’t understand decay,” Holtz says. “There’s a lot of really basic stuff in nature that people just make assumptions about.” (Source: Smithsonian Magazine)

Consequently, “Her findings challenge such basic assumptions about animal preservation that her colleagues have put her research—and the woman herself—under the microscope.” (Source: Discover Magazine)

Schweitzer has taken aim at these “basic assumptions,” and by doing so she has drawn considerable attention to herself. This is the progress of science, of course; challenging old theories and replacing them over time with better ones.

But people always resist altering their basic presuppositions about the world, and this is supremely true for an entire guild that has built its reputation and credibility upon hundreds of years of faith in the theory of evolution — from which has sprung the modern social and political theory of the entire Western world.

This controversy is mostly about religious presuppositions, not science.

If that foundation of evolutionary faith is destroyed, then so will be thousands of careers and reputations. Old paradigms will be shifted. Long-held theories will be discredited, leaving a void for better theories (hopefully Christian theories) to replace them.

Most importantly, millions of people will once again be brought face to face with the existence of the God who makes his eternal power and divine nature known plainly to them. (Romans 1:19-20) While they presently withhold that truth in their unrighteousness, hiding behind this wall of “science” they have built up around themselves in their own self-deception, suddenly having to face a world in which the theory of evolution has been discredited is equivalent to pulling down the lofty opinions raised against the knowledge of God built upon foundations made of sand. (2 Corinthians 10:4-5)

That won’t mean they will all repent, accept Christ and turn to the Lord, but we should be prayerful that more will than won’t.

WORLDVIEWS IN COLLISION

This brings us to the matter of the antithesis.

The previous article discussed Dr. Schweitzer drawing a hypothetical connection between dinosaurs and modern ostriches. If we learn a little bit more about her past, we’ll understand why she inserted this speculation into her paper.

Dr. Schweitzer first found dinosaur bones with blood cells in them in 1990 when she was at Montana State University Northern. She went public with that discovery in a 1997 article published in Earth Magazine, which is now defunct (Click Here to download a copy of the article). It was not a peer-reviewed magazine, but rather it was a magazine that explained scientific discoveries to lay people. (You’ll find, therefore, that should it ever be mentioned, it is maligned.)

Science Against Evolution has written several articles on this subject. In 1999, Dowhile Jones attended a dinosaur dig in Montana and discovered that Dr. Schweitzer was no longer at the university and had been, essentially, run out of town on a rail. Now working at North Carolina State University, it’s clear that she’s no longer expelled from the scientific community.

What happened in 1997 when Dr. Schweitzer published her article? Answers in Genesis picked up the article and reviewed the results in their magazine, Creation Ex Nihilo, and used them to reinforce the idea that the earth (and dinosaurs) are approximately 6,000 years old. In other words, those crazy, young-earth creationists “hijacked” her work to twist her results.

Shortly after that, she was dismissed from Montana State.

About her studies in the 1990s, Schweitzer said “My colleague brought it back and showed me, and I just got goose bumps, because everyone knows these things don’t last for 65 million years.” (Source: Discover Magazine)

Oops, big no-no. Yes, everyone knows these things don’t last for 65 million years. So things get messy when you discover that they are still hanging around. In fact, the sub-title of the Discover Magazine article is “When this shy paleontologist found soft, fresh-looking tissue inside a T.rex femur, she erased a line between past and present. Then all hell broke loose”.

About the difficulties raised by challenges like this:

Nonetheless, says Horner, “most people were very skeptical. Frequently in our field people come up with new ideas, and opponents say, ‘I just don’t believe it.’ She was having a hard time publishing in journals.”

Schweitzer was also stymied by her unconventional fusion of paleontology and molecular biology. “Those are two disciplines we don’t usually see in the same sentence,” says Lawrence Witmer, an Ohio University anatomy professor. Techniques that were routine in one discipline seemed odd when applied to the other. “If she was working with modern animals, there wouldn’t be anything special about what she was doing,” says Horner. But molecular paleontology was unheard-of. “It is a wide-open field that she invented,” Horner says. (Source: Discover Magazine)

It’s unconventional to apply the same research methods to 65 million year old bones as you would modern (“extant”) creatures. You see, Dr. Schweitzer’s real problem is that she’s a Christian:

Rhetoric like this has put Schweitzer at the center of a raging cultural controversy, because she is not just a pioneering paleontologist but also an evangelical Christian. That fact alone has prompted some prominent paleontologists to be even more skeptical about her scientific research.

She receives more scrutiny and criticism simply because of the fact that she’s Christian. I thought science was unbiased? But she is also catching flak from Christians:

Some creationists have questioned her work from the other direction, pressing her to refute Darwinian evolution.

About scientific research and faith, she is correct:

To Schweitzer, trying to prove your religious beliefs through empirical evidence is absurd, if not sacrilegious. “If God is who He says He is, He doesn’t need us to twist and contort scientific data,” she says. “The thing that’s most important to God is our faith. Therefore, He’s not going to allow Himself to be proven by scientific methodologies.” (Source: Smithsonian Magazine)

As Answers in Genesis wrote at the end of their article of 10 Best Evidences From Science That Confirm A Young Earth, scientific findings don’t “prove” the Bible’s claims; they confirm and corroborate what God has revealed to us in Scripture. No amount of evidence will compel someone to repent and confess saving Faith in Jesus Christ; only the Holy Spirit can do that. Evidence can help break down walls of resistance. But as is written in Proverbs, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. Without starting with the truth of God and the Bible, the facts and evidences we uncover will most likely be interpreted incorrectly.

COMPROMISED CHRISTIANS

Many Christians are compromised in their faith of the account of creation as God reveals it in Genesis 1. We go through all kinds of contortions to twist the very simple, very plain meaning of “day” into anything other than “24 hours” in order to conform our theology with modern science and bring what we think is “respect” to our Christian faith in the eyes of modern atheistic, humanistic scientists.

As such, in other ways Dr. Schweitzer appears to make this same compromise:

For her, science and religion represent two different ways of looking at the world; invoking the hand of God to explain natural phenomena breaks the rules of science. (Source: Discover Magazine)

Unlike many creationists, she finds the notion of a world evolving over billions of years theologically exhilarating: “That makes God a lot bigger than thinking of Him as a magician that pulled everything out in one fell swoop.” (Source: Smithsonian Magazine)

“Theologically exhilarating” indeed. Without Adam and Eve, there’s no original sin that Jesus Christ needed to die to redeem us from.

Despite this, Dr. Schweitzer was the one to apply these “unorthodox” methodologies to dinosaur bones that most scientists are biased against because of their presuppositions. As was revealed in the Discover Magazine article, Dr. Schweitzer has Jeremiah 29:11 hanging on her office wall:

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

He has certainly already used Dr. Schweitzer to do great things. She is truly a stranger in the land of atheistic science. Perhaps she’s not as convinced of the “truth” of evolution as she puts on.

There is a constant war being fought between Christians and non-Christians. Christians are ridiculed, and their evidence and methods laughed out of admission, despite modern science flying the banner of “neutrality”.

For example, the Smithsonian Institute fired editor Richard Sternberg for allowing a peer-reviewed Intelligent Design article to be published. The U.S. Office of Special Counsel determined that “the actions taken on the part of SI employees clearly had a political and religious component.

If Dr. Schweitzer has had trouble getting published in magazines despite her pro-evolutionary statements, imagine if she declared that she didn’t believe in evolution. She would once again be ejected from the scientific community.

Her work is vital to science and to gaining accurate knowledge about the events of the past. By means of her tenacity, she has let a hand grenade slip through the closely-guarded cracks of atheistic science. Despite the best efforts of the guild watchmen, this is a grenade they’ll never be able to defuse. (Think: Star Wars Episode IV, Luke defeating the Death Star)

Unrepentant sinners are hostile towards God. They suppress the truth in their unrighteousness. Whenever they fly the banner of “neutrality” and weigh all of the evidence “critically” and “equally,” the Bible always loses out to mankind’s futile and vain speculations.

But Jesus is the light of the world, and we are to be renewed in the spirit of our minds and never again walk in darkness. For as Paul wrote:

The night is far gone; the day is at hand. (Romans 13:12 ESV)

As more and more souls turn to Christ, more and more light will be shed onto the facts and evidences of the world. The vain and futile reasonings of atheistic science will be torn down. God will not be mocked. We have time on our side; the forces of Satan do not.

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2 responses to “Soft tissues in dinosaur bones: a closer look at the philosophical conflicts

  1. Pingback: Soft tissues discovered in dinosaur bones – more headaches for evolutionary scientists | Rebuild America's Biblical Worldview

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