Edited May 2015
Review by Greg Neyman
© Old Earth Ministries
The recent discovery of soft tissue inside a fossilized T-rex femur has the young earth creationist world buzzing. They claim this startling evidence clearly supports a young earth. However, as usual, young earth creation science is “grasping at straws” while ignoring the whole haystack (for links to the Answers in Genesis article, see below). Even more interesting is what Answers in Genesis omits from the original article, as they "pick and choose," as is their style, only those portions that supports their position.
Carl Wieland of AiG calls this a "stunning rebuttal of millions of years." Nothing could be further from the truth. Instead of focusing only on the soft tissue alone (the "straw"), let's examine the whole picture.
First, some expectations. If we were to find some soft tissue of dinosaurs, where is the most likely place to find it? The answer is obvious...in the most recent fossils. The T-rex was one of the last of the dinosaurs, living in the last five million years of dinosaur existence, from 70-65 million years ago.
Second expectation...what body part would we expect to contain the soft tissue? Here again, the answer is obvious. The soft tissue stands the best chance of being preserved in a large bone, such as the femur of the T-rex. The larger the bone, the more "insulation" the soft tissue has from outside elements. The original source report for this article, which came from Science magazine, gives several key phrases, such as the "dense compact bone typical of therapods," and "dense mineralization of dinosaur bone." A large bone such as a therapod femur would be the most likely source of soft tissue, as the larger bone provides an opportunity for the outer bone to be sealed by mineralization, entombing the inner contents and protecting them from the elements.
Third expectation...if the earth was young, then we would expect most, if not all large dinosaur fossils to show evidences of soft tissue...after all, according to young earth theory, large dinosaurs from 200 million years ago died at the same time T-rex did, during the flood of Noah. Thus, you should expect all large dinosaur bones to be possible sources for soft tissue. However, this is not the case. With this fossil, we have one sample of soft tissue, out of millions of dinosaur bones that have been collected. Thus, this young earth "expectation" is completely unfounded.
Young earth creation science "expert" Carl Wieland ignores the stratigraphic location of the fossil. According to the Science Magazine article, it was located "at the base of the Hell Creek Formation, 8 m above the Fox Hills Sandstone." The Hell Creek Formation is Late Cretaceous in age, and actually crosses the K/T boundary, the extinction point of the dinosaurs, 65 million years ago. I would not expect a young earth theorist to recognize the significance of this fact, since they believe the Flood deposited all of these rock formation. However, it is clear from stratigraphy that dinosaurs were not all killed by Noah's Flood. To learn more, read "Dinosaur Evidences for an Old Earth."
What is even more stunning is that Wieland ignores over half the article, which compares pictures and data from the T-rex to pictures and data from a fossilized Ostrich. The similarities are stunning. More than anything, this one fossil of T-rex lends support to the theory that birds evolved from dinosaurs.
In response to this omission, three days later (28 March 05) Answers in Genesis published another article addressing the Ostrich comparisons (see below for link). The new author (Dr. David Menton) says this is not the first time that soft tissue has been found, and he provides a link back to the already disproven AiG report on T-rex blood cells (see rebuttal here). Dr. Menton appears to bring up some valid arguments about Dr. Schweitzer's article, mainly that the comparisons of the structures of the T-Rex and Ostrich would be common to most amphibians, reptiles, birds, or mammals. The assumption made by Dr. Menton is that there is an unstated conclusion that dinosaurs evolved into birds, and thus he is attempting to discredit the similarities between the ostrich and T-Rex. However, Dr. Schweitzer does not mention evolution at all in her article. She is merely showing similar features between two organisms, which were obtained in similar procedures when applied to two different creatures.
Dr. Schweitzer may be using the comparison for proof of dinosaur to bird evolution, but it is more likely that she is merely showing a modern example, for the sake of clarity of understanding. Dr. Menton admits that he sees an unstated conclusion that "this similarity in microscopic structure proves that dinosaurs and birds are closely related through evolution." Nowhere does Dr. Schweitzer make this claim.
In the end, the layman reading these articles must decide which scientist to believe. Since Dr. Schweitzer has no religious motivations for proving a young or old earth, hers is the more objective, or fair and balanced approach, and in this case is a more reliable scientific source than Dr. Menton (see Creation Scientist?).
Update: In the years since this discovery, there has been ongoing research into the soft tissue. Research in 2013 showed that the high iron content of dinosaur blood helped preserve the tissue. Iron is reactive to other molecules, so the body keeps it bound to other molecules that keep it from causing harm. Upon death, the iron is released, and causes protiens and cell membranes to tie in knots, similar to the action of formaldehyde, which is used to preserve tissues. (Link)
The find of T-Rex soft tissue in no way supports a young earth. In fact, when you consider the fact that we should find much more soft tissue in all large dinosaur bones, it actually supports an old earth even better! Neither article presents convincing information that supports their cause.
If you have questions about the Science Magazine article, feel free to email me. I have the article, but I cannot post it for copyright reasons.
For more truth about T-Rex soft tissue, listen to Reasons to Believe webcast about this topic (RealPlayer required).
Answers in Genesis Article - Copy/paste the link below into your browser address bar.
Answers in Genesis Ostrich Article - Copy/past into your address bar.
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