I was reading this gushing review of Mark Armitage’s work by Dr Jay Wile, who was “voted #1 by the readers of Practical Homeschooling magazine.” Armitage is the microscope technician who claims to have discovered intact cells in dinosaur bone. He’s full of it. But I have to say I appreciate the unwitting way Wile tears apart Armitage’s work while thinking he’s praising it.
Here’s an easy one. You’d think someone with a Ph.D. in nuclear chemistry would understand that this is garbage:
A couple of years ago, for example, a sample of the fossil was analyzed for carbon-14 content. If it really is 65 million years old, there should be no carbon-14 in the fossil. Nevertheless, carbon-14 was found. Of course, there is always the chance that the carbon-14 is the result of contamination, but combined with the presence of soft bone cells, it seems obvious to me that the fossil is significantly younger than 65 million years!
C14 dating uses the ratio of carbon isotopes; it can’t be used on material above about 50,000 years because the quantity of carbon-14 is too low to be reliable, not because it’s nonexistent. If the bone was really young, you wouldn’t just be reporting that there was some C14 in it, you’d be reporting an age derived from a ratio.
But now for the real nonsense: the cells are just there, requiring no chemical isolation.
This soft tissue didn’t require any chemical procedure to isolate. It was simply there, inside the horn. He describes the sample as “soft, stretchy fibrillar bone,” and the light microscope image clearly shows the bone cells embedded in the tissue. Thus, this isn’t some biofilm left behind by bacteria or some other form of contamination. This is soft bone tissue from the horn itself, as evidenced by the bone cells embedded therein.
But wait, no! It does take long chemical processing to extract these cells!
While all of these images are incredible, he saves the best for last. Using a six-week process involving a weak acid, dialysis tubing, and distilled water, he was able to isolate individual bone cells. Look at the photo at the top of this post. It is of an individual Triceratops bone cell, as seen with a standard light microscope. The final two images of Armitage’s paper show two bone cells like the one above. They are free of any surrounding tissue, and one of them shows what appears to be the cell’s nucleus! If I hadn’t been told that these cells came from a Triceratops fossil, I would think they had come from a living animal’s bone tissue.
Which is it? From that description, though, I have to wonder — that is a protocol that opens the door to lots of opportunities for contamination. How meticulous is this technician’s procedure? That question is moot, because he quotes Armitage’s description of the fossil bone sample.
The remarkable preservation of delicate ultrastructures such as filopodia and cell-to-cell junctions (white arrows, Figures 6 and 7) has resisted a simple explanation despite hypothesized temporal limits on molecular preservation over millions of years. In the case of soft vessels recovered from dinosaur femur specimens, it seems reasonable that these tissues were sequestered from the elements and from biological scavenging activity because of deep encapsulation within compact bone. Within the Triceratops horn, however, which was highly vascular, no sequestration was likely because all of the vessels were openly exposed to air, soil, water, scavengers, dissolved salts and minerals, and the freeze-thaw cycle and heat of Montana seasonal weather; yet a high degree of preservation persists. While plant roots, fungal hyphae, and insect remains were all found traversing the horn, soft fibrillar sheets of bone and well-preserved osteocytes remain.
Unbelievable. Utterly unbelievable. He just compromised his own results, and Wile obliviously calls this the
most important part of the article. I agree, but not for the reasons Wile thinks.