Worst Conspiracy Ever (Dinosaur Skin and Creationism)

Eye on the ICR has a post about the discovery of some soft material from a dead dinosaur that had survived down to the present day. Not surprisingly, some young-earth creationists have tried to misrepresent it in order to imply that it shows that dinosaurs lived more recently. But it does nothing of the sort, obviously. Such finds are rare, and so this is not an indication that a short time has passed since the dinosaur died. The interesting question – which scientists are fascinated by – is what the processes are that have allowed soft materials from an organism to be preserved.

I particularly like this quote from the piece:

I’ve heard creationists speak of conspiracy in these matters, of scientists actively concealing such finds to prop up the old Earth… Worst conspiracy ever. If it actually existed we would have to conclude that it is very good at hiding positive evidence of its own existence, but very bad at hiding the finds that it exists to conceal.

Of related interest:

John Wilkins concluded his God and Evolution series.

Inigo Montoya had something to say about the phrase “only a theory.”

Jim Kidder blogged about school board happenings in Ohio.

Hemant Mehta blogged about a poorly-informed Kentucky state senator.

"Since I specified that with which I disagreed, there is no need for your feigned ..."

Gaps in Jesus’ Fossil Record?
"An important canonical issue: is the 70s cartoon series part of the canon?"

Friday Recap #AARSBL17 – AAR Trek ..."
"You seem to have completely misunderstood what I wrote, which was about the thing that ..."

The “Original Aramaic Lord’s Prayer” is ..."
"I felt that your article was a bit dismissive towards the translations that do exist ..."

The “Original Aramaic Lord’s Prayer” is ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Ian

    It is a fascinating process. There have been a handful of fossil finds now, where mineralization is incomplete. And it is fascinating to find out more details of how the process occurs.

    But also a caveat. By the time these results find their way through the university PR department and whatever news outlet, terms like “actual skin” and “completely preserved” get thrown around quite readily. In fact those terms are used rather sloppily by the scientists, because the scientist’s aim is to emphasize just how rare these things are. But it is a hyperbole. There are traces of organic chemicals amid the mineralization, there are still structures present, but this is not preserved skin as we’d get from a frozen mammoth, for example.

    These structures don’t have intact cells, you can’t extract any sensible nucleic acid sequences. If you read the article you can see that they *hope* they’ll get enough chemical clues to have a good shot at determining what pigments might have been present. They can detect remnants of fats, but only by using extraordinarily sensitive detectors that look for very specific remnants of particular chemical bonds. This is not the approach you normally take to detecting fats in preserved organic matter.

    So ‘actual skin’ in compared to most skin-impression fossils, but not ‘actual skin’ in comparison to, well, actual skin.

    I’m not criticising the article or the science, just raising a note of caution on how to interpret the hype of these finds.

    If it actually existed we would have to conclude that it is very good at hiding positive evidence of its own existence, but very bad at hiding the finds that it exists to conceal.

    This is where so many conspiracy theories lose it, I think.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/religionprof/ James F. McGrath

      I thought that was the case, but wasn’t sure that I had remembered correctly. Thanks for providing this clarification!

  • Matt Lucas

    The ICR article was still correct in its assertions. It asked why scientists were asking themselves how it could have lasted 70 million years or more, when the correct question should start with how old is it really?

    • arcseconds

      Why would finding fossilized skin with remnants of organic molecules suggest that the correct thing to do is to question the picture virtually all evidence has been pointing towards for decades, if not centuries?

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/religionprof/ James F. McGrath

        I don’t think the ICR article even understood just what survived, and in what form. Rereading, it seems like they think that it was actually a piece of skin that survived intact!

  • Kindel

    They’ve found a lot of soft tissue in dinosaur bones. The time frame is wrong, and as soon as they can finally agree on that obvious conclusion, we can start seeing some real science as opposed to the faith-based macro-evolution propaganda. It is proven wrong time and time again, and people are willingly ignorant, changing their theories, rather than the accepting the evidence. That’s not science.. That’s a religion.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/religionprof/ James F. McGrath

      Can you kindly provide some evidence for the claims you make here? Thanks.

      • Passing Through

        I was disappointed in the brevity of your complaint against ICR. What of the protein degeneration?
        The evidence seen by both old-earth and young-earth perspectives is the same, but the interpretations depend upon the foundational viewpoint.
        Dr. Walt Brown offers objective evaluation of basic theories and how well they explain the evidence. He offers the Hydroplate Theory to better answer a very broad range of findings through a cause and effect series of events. He also points out how the Big Bang theory has been altered to the findings, for example, that in 1926 starlight radiation was calculated to warm space to about 3 degrees Kelvin, and in 1946 the Big Bang Theory predicted the findings would be about 30. Now, all we hear is how the Big Bang Theory predicted 3 degrees.
        CMI offers current findings of science in the debate of creation and evolutionism and is operated by a diverse group of scientists of young-earth perspective.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/religionprof/ James F. McGrath

          I always find it odd when someone comments on a blog post about how many things are not mentioned there. This is not a book, it is a blog post. Even so, there has been a lot of blogging here on this topic, and ignoring it or pretending it isn’t there makes you sound like a troll. Here is a link to get you started: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/religionprof/2010/02/blogging-creationism-and-intelligent-design-the-highlights-revisited.html

          Now, would you care to decide whether it is possible to offer an objective evaluation of the evidence, or whether different interpretations result from differing assumptions? Presumably I should only respond to whichever of the two views you hold, if either.

          • Passing Through

            A tip of the hat to you–I’ve commented on the same shortness of space and its limits to answers.
            My point for jumping in is the existence of soft-tissue (living bacteria encased in salt, limber magnolia leaf in clay, but in most cases the unfossilized marrow, tendons, etc. may be dried and hard) having such great ages attached to them. Observations from intentional or ideal preservations (mummies, canning industry) have very real limits for durability. The assumption that the cell components and their natural deterioration can last millions of years is not based on observation of decay, but is based on the layer they are recovered from being assumed to be that old. But is the foundation of layer age logical in light of:
            Tissue degradation?
            Circular reasoning of layer dating of fossil being a certain age because of its layer, and the layer being a certain age because of its fossil?
            The young-earth age arguments including that atmospheric helium quantity can be reached in only 40,000 years with only the decay of uranium and thorium?
            Fast-escaping helium from crustal zircon crystal indicates that the upper 4000 meters show helium where none should be found with old-earth time scales?
            That lead leaking from these zircons, with greater rates with higher temperatures, have no measurable difference with depth?

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/religionprof/ James F. McGrath

            Can you please provide links or references to the scientific studies publishing the relevant data and discussing its significance? I used to be a young-earth creationist, and so I know how much use is made in their publications of claims about data which allegedly undermines mainstream science. Rarely did such data exist, or mean what it was claimed that it meant, when I finally looked into it in detail. And so I must insist that you not offer vague claims without references, but provide references to scientific sources. If finds have been made which even appear to be at odds with mainstream theories, and the results are repeatable, such results will always be considered important and worthy of publication, as was the case with the fossilized soft matter. And so providing the necessary supporting references, if they exist, should be a straightforward matter.

          • Passing Through

            Finally getting back to answer your reasonable request for
            supporting evidence.

            Existence of soft tissue:








            Living bacteria encased in salt:


            Limber magnolia leaf in clay:



            Atmospheric helium:



            Zircon helium:

            http://www.creationresearch.org/crsq/articles/41/41_1/Helium.htm (includes controversial RATE research)


            Zircon lead:



            Other considerations:

            Index fossils:


            Geologic Column:


            Human artifacts
            in rock layers:


            Evidence is before us. Theories interpreting the evidence may come and go. Consider that the Bible has been accurate in its historical record, and in its huge fulfilled prophetic inventory. Its info on the past just may be accurate, too.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/religionprof/ James F. McGrath

            I asked for scientific studies, not young-earth creationist or intelligent design propaganda on the web. I am asking for the actual scientific studies. Don’t worry that they are only available through repositories that require subscriptions – I have access through my university library.

            I realize that the headline and parts of the National Geographic article reporting on the dinosaur skin for a popular audience are misleading, but even if you just read that article, you will see that what is being spoken about is fossilized skin. What is surprising is not that skin survived – it has not – but that the skin was mineralized and thus preserved as a fossil when usually it decomposes before that can occur – which is why such fossils are so rare.

          • Passing Through

            I stand properly corrected on that Nat Geo article, as I scanned that one a tad too quickly. Thank you.
            I’m afraid that the evolutionary propaganda is so thick, that any discussion with contrary views regarding the evidence is dismissed before being considered.
            Would you mind defining scientific studies. Though some of the above listings are commentaries, others involve scientists and the findings of their studies. I figured you would be interested in the Zircon studies.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/religionprof/ James F. McGrath

            By scientific studies, I mean scientific publications, in peer-reviewed scientific journals.

            What you shared was mostly propaganda. If you think propaganda is a problem, why do you share it?

          • Passing Through

            Your questions and challenges have been reasonable. However, I think so much wool has been pulled over your eyes from the evolutionary majority view to keep you from considering valuable information from opposing views and interpretations of the findings.

            I believe all the above articles were well referenced, though here are references more compatible to your requests:
            Robert V. Gentry, “Differential Lead Retention in Zircons: implications for Nuclear Waste Containment,” Science, 16 April 1982, p. 296.
            Gentry, “Letters” Physics Today, Oct 1982, pp.13-14.
            Gentry, “Letters” Physics Today, April 1983, p 13.
            Gentry, “Differential Helium Retention in Zircons” Geophysical Research Letters, Vol 9, No 10, October 1982 p 1130.
            Yes, these are old; but, to my knowledge, still stand.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/religionprof/ James F. McGrath

            Ah, that stuff by Gentry. It isn’t clear at all that his conclusions in those articles have any bearing on the age of the Earth. I will share a link to a page, with links to other scientific articles, explaining this point.


          • Passing Through

            This link deals with Gentry’s interpretation of radio-halos, not helium and lead diffusing from zircons at rapid rates yet existing in quantities higher than compatible for old earth interpretations.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/religionprof/ James F. McGrath

            Given that, on the whole, Gentry’s claims have not been found persuasive by his scientific peers, why would you choose to follow them, other than because you are looking for someone with credentials who can bolster what you have chosen to believe even without their support?

          • Passing Through

            We are offered various, interdependent theories based on the assumption that we have to interpret the past by the processes we see today. These theories gain their momentum and complexities as those wishing to exclude God from their life champion un-God interpretations of observations.
            Intimidated, many in the Church have stepped back from the Bible; After all, all those wise men can not be wrong!
            Genesis becomes diluted, and the teachings and responses based on Genesis are ignored.
            However, I find more formidable than the credentials of these wise men of evolutionary interpretations the credentials of the Bible.
            Its accounts of people, places, and events are historically impeccable.
            Its verification through prophecy fulfilled to the letter stand bright in life’s sea of turmoil. Ezekiel 26:3-26 foretells Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar taking the city of Tyre; that other nations would be involved; that the city would be made flat; that fisherman would dry their nets where the city stood; that its timbers, stone, and dust would go into the sea; other cities would fear because of its fall; and that the old city would not be rebuilt. This Mediterranean city fell to Nebuchadnezzar, fulfilling the prophecy in part. Alexander the Great finished the prophecy, and even today, the old city site is a drying place for fishermen nets. In Daniel, the Babylonian emperor was told that his kingdom would pass to a stronger but inferior nation later prophesied through Daniel as Persia. Likewise, Greece would follow Persia. These would be followed by yet a stronger empire, though inferior in quality. This empire would be divided into two. History shows that the Roman Empire replaced Greece, and divided into the Eastern and Western Empires.
            Over 300 prophecies are fulfilled in the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. For instance, Bethlehem of Judea was pointed out in Micah 5:2 (Matthew 2:1) to King Herod when the Magi of the East asked where to find the one born king of the Jews. That he would be a light to the gentiles (Isaiah 49:6) and be a mild man (Isaiah 42:1-4,6; Matthew 12:14-21). That he would not have a bone broken (Psalm 22:17; Psalm 34:20; John 19:33,36a). That he would be pierced (Isaiah 53:5; Zechariah 12:10; John 19:33-34;37). Though assigned the punishment of the wicked, he would be buried with the rich (Isaiah 53:9; Matthew 27:57,59-60). And, Jesus would raise from the dead (Isaiah 53:8,11; Matthew 28:2,5-7,9). The mathematical probabilities of only a few of the prophecies being fulfilled by chance is mind-boggling.
            The miracles performed by him were not contested by even his enemies still living as the New Testament was being written and circulated which validates his claims that he was who he said he was: one with the Father, Creator of Heaven and Earth. He often referred to the opening chapters of Genesis in answering various questions.
            Since Genesis is validated by one who can determine the future, calm the wind and waves, feed thousands with a boy’s lunch, and bring a decaying Lazarus back to life, I will sooner consider scientific observations in the light of theories and interpretations that honor Genesis than those theories and interpretations that demean the Creator who said “In six days I created the heavens and the earth” (Exodus 20:1,8); and who as Judge, spared eight people as he condemned the rebellious under the ravages of a year-long flood (Genesis 6-8).
            Its message eliminates authorship by good men or angels for these writers would not lie of their own writing, saying, “Thus saith the Lord.” Nor can it have been written by bad men or by demons, for they would not write of forbidding sin, commanding good, and condemning their own souls to Hell for all eternity. This favors the interpretation that the Bible is given by God in his love that tells the truth of the dangers and lights the way of life.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/religionprof/ James F. McGrath

            This is a poor argument, and not only because the rebuilding of Tyre is at odds with Ezekiel’s prediction. Read the texts that are quoted in Matthew 1-2 in their original contexts and you will see that they are not predictions about Jesus. Presumably you have misunderstood Matthew to be talking about prediction when he is engaging in typology. This error is possible only for those who are not well acquainted with the texts being quoted.

            But none of this is relevant to the topic at hand. The Bible depicts a dome over the Earth, which stands on pillars and cannot be moved, although it may be made to quake. This is not a scientific description of the world, and to insist on picking and choosing some texts to take literally, and then rejecting scientific conclusions because of it, is an affront to the Bible as well as science, and drives many away from the Christian faith unnecessarily.

          • Passing Through

            First, I need to correct a reference I used–Ezekiel 26:3-16 (not to the nonexistent verse 26).
            Second, Regarding “Rebuilding of Tyre is at odds with Ezekiel’s prediction”:
            1. Old site was thrown into the sea.
            2. Old site was not rebuilt.
            3. New site was desolated by war.
            4. If more destruction is needed to further fulfill this passage, then Revelation 8:8-9 and 16:17-20 should take care of that.
            Third, regarding typology vs. fulfilled prophecy, we agree something unique occurred in the early chapters of Matthew. However, the travels and worship by the Magi appear to show they were familiar with the writings of Numbers 26:17 of the star and of Daniel 9:20-26a of the timing of the King. When Herod was trying to keep his cool, the experts of the Scriptures did not try toning down the situation with typology. Instead, they answered with Micah 5:2 and its prophecy of a governor coming from Bethlehem of Judah. No mere human could fulfill the last portion of the verse of the eternality of the target fulfillment. What you may call typology may be, in some cases, double fulfillment.
            Fourth, regarding language used in the Bible disqualifying it from lofty scientific consideration, we do not despise the weather forecasters for using language of convenience when they refer to the sun rising or setting. Neither is the use of poetic terms and metaphors banned from the lecture hall of advanced science. Because normal use of language depends on a literal foundation for poetic usage to make sense, much can be conveyed with such passages as Isaiah 40:22. Regarding the pillars of the earth as seen in Job 9:6, there may be some literal correlation there as seen with young-earther Walt Brown and his Hydroplate theory. He offers that the Genesis 7:11 fountains of the great deep that flooded the earth came from a rupture of interconnected chambers that had been formed as the crust bowed through a layer of water and rested on the mantle during the literal creation week. These points of contact could easily classify as pillars. Writing off the difficult passages to adopt un-God interpretations of observations endangers one from seeing the truth of sin and separation from a holy God who loves us and made a way though his just and merciful payment through the death and resurrection of Jesus, God in flesh.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/religionprof/ James F. McGrath

            It sounds as though your overall approach can be summed up as follows: the text is always right, and means what I think it should mean, and is literal or metaphorical as required for it to fit those constraints.

            You need to consider whether, rather than an actual star that appeared in the sky – and somehow, unlike a real star, was able to go ahead of people from Jerusalem and stand over a single house in Bethlehem – being the fulfillment of a prediction in Numbers, the text in Numbers may not have inspired the author of the Gospel of Matthew to include that detail. Likewise, traditional Christians have asserted the eternality of Jesus based on texts like Micah. It is not as though we can independently verify his eternality and then on that basis demonstrate that Micah predicted this accurately.

          • Passing Through

            My overall approach can be summed up as the text is always right, though I may not. As an old adage goes, “If the plain sense makes common sense, seek no other sense.”
            We have enough translations and copies that date within a century of the New Testament writing and verified continuity of the Old Testament that we can be certain of the content of the originals. Remaining questions fall in areas of little consequence. The Bible continues to stand in history, in prophecy, in answers to life. We have nothing but the un-God theories and interpretations of observations and our natural rebel selves that stand in the way of 2 Timothy 3:16 that says “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” It states there was an eye-witness for the origin of the heavens and earth.
            John 8:57-59 shows Jesus speaking of his own eternality. He answers the angry question “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?”
            He replied, “I say unto you, before Abraham was, I am.”
            If, as the group thought as they reached for stones, he was committing blasphemy, then he was not a good man.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/religionprof/ James F. McGrath

            If the text is always right, then why do you take its statement about the text being “God-breathed” – with God giving life to it as God did with Adam in the creation story – and change it to inspiration, as though it were a statement about God manipulating the minds of the authors?

          • Passing Through

            Convenience of centuries of use. This example originally translated to English in the 1600’s and captures a snapshot of our language as it continued to change as languages do. Thus, the benefit of translations, commentaries, and dictionaries. The use of “inspiration” here is intended to carry the meaning of “God-breathed (out)”, to express. Rather than manipulating the minds of the authors, he worked through godly men of various backgrounds and education (2 Peter 1:21); sometimes, though, with direct revelation.