There's Something About Mary Schweitzer, Part 6

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Thursday, January 19, 2023 3 comments

by Steve Risner

After a short break, we’re looking back at interviews done by Dr. Mary Schweitzer of North Carolina University, a paleontologist who discovered soft tissue in dinosaur bones. Her findings are consistent with what Biblical creationists believe and have believed all along: that creation of the earth and therefore life forms like dinosaurs happened about 6000 years ago and that dinosaur fossils were likely from the Flood of Noah’s day which was about 4400 years ago or so. Creationists have been attacked for saying such things, but it’s obviously true. We will look at some of the things Dr. Schweitzer, a Christian and former YEC (young-earth creationist), says about her discovery today.

Let’s start with something we’ve often said about how scientists, in their bias, may work in some of these scenarios. Dr. Schweitzer says:

And the danger of thinking you know everything is that it squashes curiosity and discourages further investigation. When I started down this path that I'm on, everybody “knew” organics don't persist in dinosaur bone. The bones are just too old. Organics degrade. You can't get DNA. You can't get cells. You certainly are not going to get cells in tissues. Well, so nobody looks. And if nobody looks...

Everybody “knew” organics don’t persist in dinosaur bones for two reasons: 1) because they believe dinosaur bones are tens of millions of years old and 2) research shows us that soft tissue can only persist for, under the most ideal conditions, for maybe 100,000 years if we’re lucky. Dr. Schweitzer acknowledged this, saying, “So, that leaves us with two alternatives for interpretation: either the dinosaurs aren’t as old as we think they are, or maybe we don’t know exactly how these things get preserved.” In other words, what we believe may be incorrect or what we have studied in the lab and determined fairly conclusively is incorrect. Hmm. It seems a lot of times that scientists don’t want to follow the science, especially if it means they need to abandon preconceived ideas and beliefs that are unverifiable.

Other things Dr. Schweitzer said on this topic of not believing what her evidence was trying to tell her were things like: “…of course everyone knew there cannot be organics in bone this old…” And, after being questioned by someone about what looked like blood cells in the sample, she said, “’What do you think they are?’ And I said, ‘Well, I know they can't be blood cells, but they're in the right place, the right location, the right size, and they're nucleated.’” After another colleague saw the red blood cells, she recalls, “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.” She went so far as to walk on eggshells for a while, even using vague terms to not draw too much attention. “I never called them blood vessels or red blood cells. I said, ‘vessel-like structures,’ ‘cell-like structures.’”

Creationists are often badgered for taking Dr. Schweitzer’s work for what it seems to indicate: that the belief in dinosaur bones being at least 65 million years old is wrong. Many scientists have decided to hold on to this belief and have instead rejected the scientific research telling us soft tissue cannot persist for tens of millions of years. Do you see the problem here? They’ve decided to uphold a belief rather than trust the science. Yet, creationists are ridiculed for such things routinely. In fact, Professor Jack Horner, Dr. Schweitzer’s mentor, even recategorized the facts of the research to be called “assumptions.” In Discover Magazine, Professor Horner says that if soft tissue can last 65 million years, “there may be a lot of things out there that we’ve missed because of our assumption of how preservation works.” You see, it’s not factual anymore that research tells us soft tissue cannot last 1/650th of the time frame they require. It’s an assumption. Perhaps it would do the good professor a little better to realize that claiming the dinosaur fossils are 65 million years old is an assumption—an unprovable one at that. While I can agree our assumptions can cause us to miss things, he’s declared the wrong bit of information an assumption.

With her discovery, her fist instinct, because she “knew” that soft tissue couldn’t be there, was to deny it and then, after she came to grips with it, to hide it. She says in this interview, “And so I sat there and I thought, ‘I'm not telling anybody.’” Obviously, she didn’t stick with that strategy. But, again, creationists are criticized for giving Dr. Schweitzer grief over this find, but the truth is she believed her own colleagues would bad mouth her. And they did. In her words, “The results were not well accepted. I mean, they were very controversial.”

This is one place of several where science can break down in terms of its objectivity. Either fear of ridicule and loss of funding squelch new discoveries or the desire for more funding and notoriety force sensational finds that really might not be so sensational. I believe the discovery of “Lucy” was like this. I wrote a little about that in this blog post called “Lucy’s Split Personality.” Following that link, you can see another famous scientist pointing to the exact same problems with some scientists. Johanson says, “It is hard for me now to admit how tangled in that thicket I was. But the insidious thing about bias is that it does make one deaf to the cries of other evidence.” The “other evidence” in this case would be research I’ve linked to previously that tells us soft tissue cannot remain remotely intact for 65 million (or in some cases a half billion) years.

But this is truly an example of, “Don’t confuse me with the facts. I’ve already made up my mind.” Dr. Schweitzer even recognizes the truth in the research, saying, "Everyone knows how soft tissues degrade. If you take a blood sample and you stick it on a shelf, you have nothing recognizable in about a week. So why would there be anything left in dinosaurs?" Jeffrey Bada, an organic geochemist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, cannot imagine soft tissue surviving millions of years, says an article on the topic in Discover Magazine.

As I’ve stated often and even in this series, the “unbiased science” that we all want to trust so much comes down to money and publicity. Dr. Schweitzer complains about this, rightly so I would think, saying, “That's the saddest part about doing science in America: You are totally driven by what gets you funding.”

For creationists, truth doesn’t rest on funding. It is based on the Word of God. John 17:17 says, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” The ultimate source of truth is not found in science or scientists but in the God we serve. There are truths that the world can give us—the weight of a gallon of milk, the speed of the moon rotating about the earth, the conductivity of a certain metal. But there are truths far more important than this that truly give us meaning and purpose. Truth that answers questions like: Where did I come from? What is my purpose? Where am I going? Who am I? These questions are found answered in the Word of God. I hope you’ll join me as I join David as he says in Psalm 25:5, “Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.”

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Unknown said...

Very well written article. It's sad how money influences so much...even a person's integrity.

Kevin Nelstead said...

One correction: It is not "Dr" Jack Horner, as he does not have a doctorate. Due to severe dyslexia, Horner doesn't even have a Bachelor's degree. I had Jack Horner for my vertebrate paleontology class at Montana State University in the 1980s. He was curator at the Museum of the Rockies and an instructor in the geology department, but could not be a full professor because of his lack of credentials.

He was never hostile to Christianity (I didn't hide my faith), but he wasn't open to it either.

Steve Risner said...

Thank you for reading and thank you for your comment. I am making the appropriate corrections and will make a note of this for future writings.

What is your degree in, if I may ask, and what experience do you with paleontology?