We Get Letters: Smackdown At the Smithsonian



It’s not nearly as dramatic as the last Ben Stiller/Robin Williams romp.

But one of the really exciting things about doing a regular feature like Scott’s Blog is the opportunity not just to comment on the events of the day from a decidedly biblical point of view, but also to get the opportunity to dialogue with people on the front line of the controversies we cover.

As you may recall,  in our post “Your Paradigm is Worth More Than Twenty Cents”, we quoted from an article by Brian Switek, published on the blog site of the Smithsonian Institute, concerning further discoveries of soft tissue – literally dinosaur guts – in the fossilized remains of a supposedly 85 million year old hadrosaur.

I was pleasantly surprised to receive the following thoughtful response from Mr. Switek (which we present to you in its entirety).

Hello, I am the author of the article that you cite here.

I think you have got things wrong, mostly because (as you note) you already have a commitment to Scripture over good science.

For example, the degraded soft tissue remains of the dinosaur say nothing at all about floods or biblical history, yet you immediately use it as evidence for your preconceived conclusion without trying to identify any other causes.

You are not asking “Ok, what does this mean?” but instead are slotting a fact into a view you already accept for reasons of faith.

And, as you will find if you make yourself familiar with the work of actual paleontologists (and not “creation scientists”) there are all different sorts of fossil preservation. We are still learning about how the process occurs, but there is a wide variation of how living organisms can be preserved.

Sometimes all you get are friable fragments, other times you get beautifully preserved impressions, and sometimes the bones have been protected enough that the decayed remnants of soft tissues might be preserved. It is the same with roadkill.

I have seen deer that stay gooey for months while others are picked clean and dried out very fast; the circumstances of death and preservation cause there to be variation in the fossilization process.

But that’s picking a bit of a nit. Degraded soft tissue remnants in a dinosaur does not cause us to reject the geological timescale because that timescale is based upon sound science involving not only geology, but also chemistry and physics.

In order to wave all that away in favor of a recent, global flood we would have to throw all those sciences out (hence why creationism is anti-science: it throws away all parts of almost every science that it finds inconvenient). Changes and adjustments are made to the timescale over time, but biostratigraphy, radiometric dating, and other methods have, time and again, proved themselves to be the best ways to determine the age of rocks.

(And keep in mind that nowhere in the Bible does it say that the world was created 6,000-10,000 years ago. Those dates comes from scholars who made calculations centuries ago based upon both the Bible and non-biblical, historical sources. To accept them as accurate means that the “young” age of the earth is an interpretation with no solid grounding in evidence. If you really want to see if the Bible is accurate in terms of dates you have to turn to the rocks and investigate them. This is what geologists and paleontologists have been doing, and their view does not match that of the pre-Enlightenment scholars.)

In any case, I encourage you to “dig into” reputable sources on paleontology and not just rely on the word of creationism groups like AiG.

Obviously you might not agree with everything scientists have to say, but if you are truly interested in this topic you should educate yourself about how scientists come to their conclusions.

I have done so with creationist literature, spending hours and hours with tracts by AiG, ICR, the Discovery Institute, etc., and I would encourage you to investigate evolutionary science in the same way.

As you might imagine, I felt lead to respond to Brian’s comments.

Here’s my response:

Dear Brian,

Thank you so much for taking the time to respond to my blog posting, “Your Paradigm Is Worth More Than Twenty Cents”.

I also appreciate the fact that your response was relatively free from ad hominem invective. In an issue where both sides are passionately committed, this is often difficult to do.

Ironically, after reviewing your critique I would have to borrow freely from your opening line:

“I think you have got things wrong, mostly because (as you note) you already have a commitment to historical speculations that masquerade as science over a solid understanding of Scripture.”

Brian, we would both agree that “good science” is based upon that which is observable, testable and repeatable.

Anything that falls outside of those parameters must be honestly admitted to be an “educated guess”.

This is why in the realm of historic science (i.e. paleontology) conclusive statements are rightly modified with disclaiming terms like “scientists believe”, “possibly”, or as you use in your article, “it is still unknown”.


Because, to state the obvious, researchers were not around 85 million years ago to directly apply the scientific method to decaying hadrosaur tissue.

The so called “good science” you represent in your reply is an attempt to reconstruct the past based upon an impressive laundry list of unprovable assumptions – such as naturalism, gradualism, and a selective bias against catastrophism (“Noah’s flood? Impossible! Chicxulub’s aftermath wiping out the dinosaurs? Sure, why not?”)

I would also caution against a rhetorical technique called “elephant hurling”.

To say that accepting the idea of a global flood requires “throwing out” chemistry, physics and geology is a very difficult statement to defend.

Operational science in each of these fields is blissfully immune to the conjectures we make about the past.

A creationist, or an evolutionist like yourself would still come to the same conclusions regarding the nature of electromagnetic propagation, the Krebs Cycle, or the migratory habits of humpback whales because our results can be verified by the scientific method.

But when we state that we “know” what happened 10,000 years ago we are engaging in speculation, not science.

This was the point of my blog post.

You are biased by your naturalistic and gradualistic presuppositions, based upon philosophical axioms which, by definition, cannot be proven.

I am biased as well, by my theistic and interventionistic presuppositions, based upon philosophical axioms which by definition cannot be proven.

I would like you to know I have arrived at these axioms honestly.

My upbringing was essentially atheistic.

I am the holder of a B.A from the University of Arizona where I graduated with honors.

Part and parcel of my secular education were courses in chemistry, physics, biology and astronomy, all taught from a thoroughgoing commitment to both Darwinism and Neo-Darwinism.

However, my attorney father, always encouraged us to question assumptions.

The truth was to found in the marketplace of ideas.

In fact, my journey to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ began when I read an article from the Journal of the American Medical Association on the physical death of Jesus.

I was so taken aback at the difference between the archaeological and medical facts surrounding His death and the traditional portrait of Christ’s suffering that it made me question, “What else is there about this Jesus don’t I know?”

The quest for answers to this question lead me on a search for truth that included a three year Masters degree in Biblical Languages and Theology.

But here is the nub of the issue.

My biases have been informed not just by education and research, but also by a personal encounter with Jesus Christ.

I find the evidence supporting the veracity, historicity and preservation of the eye witness accounts of His life, death and resurrection to be overwhelmingly compelling and convincing.

And in these records we discover that Jesus Himself considered Adam and Eve historical figures and the flood of Noah an actual event. He even claimed to have been present to witness these lives and events.

Because of Jesus’ resurrection, I find Him eminently credible.

Carl Sagan?

In comparison, not so much.

So Brian, we are both in the same place in this life. We look at the world around us, hear competing voices of explanation, and choose who we will believe.

I am surprised that someone as evidently bright as you are, was able to spend “hours and hours” with creationist literature and not come to grips with how crucial this issue of choosing a paradigm is in arriving at our conclusions concerning the past.

I am surprised that you don’t seem to recognize that there are good scientists, with PhDs from top flight secular universities, doing perfectly good research who also hold to a creationist perspective.

I am also surprised that someone with your scientific background isn’t a bit shocked that hadrosaur DNA of such quality that it can be sequenced was preserved in state for 85 million years.

As I stated in my blog, wouldn’t you consider this a development that would cause an honest seeker of truth to revisit this aspect of historical “science”?

Certainly the confirmation of preserved hadrosaur tissue doesn’t prove the reality of Noah’s flood. But the rapid, catastrophic burial of such creatures in alluvial sediment certainly isn’t at odds with this possibility.

In fact, it is completely in harmony with this “inconvenient truth”.

What is in question is the article of faith that dinosaurs died out millions of years ago.

Put it this way, my faith in Jesus is falsifiable in a historical sense.

We have a phenomenon today called “Christianity”.

From it’s inception, it has been based upon the claim that Jesus rose from the dead in a moment of history.

The overwhelming majority of credible Secular and Christian scholars are agreed on the fact that three days following His death, Jesus tomb was empty.

Against all odds, and in the face of brutal persecution, His disciples were willing to die for their testimony to this fact.

From this time onward, people like myself have consistently maintained that a personal relationship with Christ is possible by choosing to place faith in Him.

These are the facts.

My conclusion after being exposed to these facts?

Jesus is alive and is a valid object of personal faith.

What He says about the entire spectrum of life is both trustworthy and binding on all people.

Now, all of this comes crashing to the ground if the body of Jesus is produced.

Show me the body of Christ and my Christian paradigm dies along with Him.

Respectfully Brian, I would ask you, what would it take for your paradigm of gradualism and naturalism to collapse?

Maybe something like, oh say, dinosaur guts?

Again Brian, I appreciate the time and effort that went into responding to my blog post.

We represent diametrically different world views, but I hope you will receive my response in keeping with the respect I have for you as a writer and a fellow seeker of truth.

Your creationist friend,


One Response

  1. Scott, Please post any further responses that you get from Brian.

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