Evolution under the microscope
Soft tissue dinosaur bones challenge millions-of-years assumptions
These dino cells “look alive” says microscopy expert Mark Armitage
Achildhood vacation examining algae at a marine science station gave Mark Armitage a lifelong "microscope bug" that has led to an exciting discovery of soft tissue in a Triceratops dinosaur fossil.
As founding manager of a high-tech microscopy suite at California State University, Mark unearthed the largest Triceratops horn found at Montana's Hell Creek Formation in 2012, a specimen he describes as having "beautiful cells that look alive".
After his findings were published online in the peer-reviewed journal Acta Histochemica, Mark, who holds a Biology Masters in Parasitology, was dismissed by an anti-religious supervisor at CSUN.
The journal paper by Mark Armitage and Kevin Anderson details the soft fibrillar and multi-layered bone tissues, osteocytes, in the 48-inch Triceratops horn, which, they conclude, "extends the range and type of dinosaur specimens known to contain non-fossilized material in bone matrix."
Mark Armitage excavated this ‘soft tissue’ tissue’ Triceratops horn in 2012
The Triceratops bone adds to Dr Mary Schweitzer's discovery of soft tissue in Tyrannosaurus-Rex bones from the same Hell Creek site.
Dr Schweitzer has sampled over 30 'T-rex' bone specimens over 20 years and found blood cells, haemoglobin, complete blood vessels, flexible ligaments, collagen, osteocalcin, bone cells, fragmented bone DNA and carbon-14.
These findings challenge the popular assumption that dinosaurs died out 65 million years ago.
As his love for science developed in his childhood in Venezuela and Puerto Rico, Mark also believed he was master of his own destiny as a product of evolution until many of his former girlfriends began living radically different lives.
His Latin American schooling included instruction in traditional religion but his Marine Corps father taught him to become a brash, vicious fighter.
"He would make me fight guys bigger than me while he watched," he remembers. "I learned all the tricks and never lost a fight."
He became full of inner pride and admits, "I did pretty much anything I wanted to during the week, as long as I was in church on the weekend."
When he enrolled at the University of Florida he stopped attending church altogether and became a heavy drug user.
However, many of his girlfriends, who he says were his "sugar-mamas", one by one decided to trust in Jesus Christ as God and Saviour. Mark reacted by going to their church to "give them a piece of my mind."
He was also curious about what his friends had, because he recalls his lifestyle of women and drugs felt "glaringly empty", snorting cocaine and smoking two cigarette packets a day followed by a prayer ritual to allay his guilt.
Triceratops horn specimen displaying highly flexible bone tissue
From the first sermon he heard at this new church, Mark says, "The scriptures on love literally stunned me", to the point that he began hanging out with men from the church and attended all services for that week.
"I was under heavy conviction because of my sin. I knew I was utterly lost and that I had to surrender my life to Jesus or I would probably kill myself with my dangerous behaviours.
"A college leader explained from the Bible that I could never earn my way to heaven by good deeds, penance or ritual. A week later, I surrendered my life to Jesus Christ and was baptised."
For some years, Mark assumed God created the universe using evolution until an engineer from his church presented the Origins film series.
An individual osteocyte (bone cell) that Mark isolated from a Triceratops horn
"The scientific content in those films absolutely floored me," Mark remembers. He subsequently read widely on Creation theories, and found the film The Genesis Solution and Ken Ham's book The Lie especially helpful.
Nowadays, as he examines the world through a microscope, Mark says there are contradictions to evolution everywhere.
"Of every experience that I have had in microscopy, no matter the discipline, no matter the venue,
one thing has become clearly resolved in my mind – microscopic things nullify the pillars of evolution," pillars that he identifies as chance and deep time.
Mark has seen abundant examples of complex objects that could never have formed by chance mutation and natural selection, such as microscopic parasites, the complex sensory and defensive apparatuses of scarab beetles, and lichens, which are a symbiotic interrelationship of plant and fungus that resists artificial assembly.
"Evolutionists need to realise that chance is not their creator so they can come to know their God through faith," Mark says.
As he challenges his latest job loss in court, Mark is determined to continue his research despite discrimination.
"This latest firing by CSUN is the fourth one in the last 12 years, but God has always supplied my needs.He has allowed me to have a great career in microscopy – I have learned so much, to the point of being able to present my research findings in major journals and at major conferences."
Aiming "to be gentle and patient with people while yielding to the Holy Spirit," Mark says he desires "to give love to those around me who have differing views to myself." ?