The Fourth Conversation Website

The creation/evolution debate has been bubbling for several years in our community, but there still seem to be numerous misunderstandings about what those who endorse an evolutionary view of creation actually believe. I wrote the Fourth Conversation as an attempt to address these misunderstandings and to positively explain the details of an evolutionary creation, and why those of us who have acquiesced to the evidence have done so.

Recent publications in our community show that this position is still widely misunderstood, and as a result many of the arguments against it are based on fabrications and assumptions.  I’ve decided to reformat the book into a website so that the content is publicly available.

To quote two paragraphs from the book…

"To be clear, I’m not asking or expecting readers to agree with this position, although to be honest, I do hope that these notes might be useful for those who are on that journey of discovery inspired by their passion for the sciences, and who are grounded by a faith and trust in God. I also hope that it will benefit those who are struggling to understand someone else’s point of view who has already made this journey."

"As Johannes Kepler said, “Praise and celebrate with me the wisdom and magnitude of the Creator, which I lay open before you by means of a deeper explanation of the structure of the world, by the search for its causes…”"

What the…???

I have previously made the point about how our community’s speakers don’t do themselves or their credibility any favours with some of the arguments they raise against an evolutionary method of creation – and it seems that the Lampstand has done it again.

In this article, it describes the how the body processes oxygen. It then finishes with this “crucial question”:

…if the body cannot survive for longer than 5 minutes without oxygen, how possibly could a human being survive if this system of oxygen transfer is taking millions of years to evolve? The answer is that the body could not survive. It needs a mechanism to bring air into the body, a mechanism to dissolve the gas into a chemical, a mechanism to transport it around the body and a mechanism to remove the waste. If all of this is not working within 5 minutes, then life as we know it would not exist….”. [Emphasis mine]

What the heck???

But let’s think about this…

  • What if human beings (i.e. Homo Sapiens) DIDN’T take “millions of years” to evolve?
  • What if there is life that DOESN’T need oxygen to survive – you know, like bacteria, tardigrades, and Loricifera?
  • What if there was evidence of ancient/fossilised organisms that actually produced oxygen instead of deriving energy from it – like stromatolites?

I probably shouldn’t adopt such a snarky tone, but really, given the Lampstand is driving so hard to make this a fellowship issue, one would think that they would do better research than this.

Because Truth Matters…

Perhaps one of the most frustrating aspects of the creation debate in our community, is the way some of our members misrepresent or misunderstand the details of what they are rejecting. The result is that they create a concept of evolution that is completely false – and then proceed to refute this ill-informed concept. The result is that we come across as amateurs scoffing at something we don’t understand.

So, in this post, we’ll consider a video of one of these presentations. The aim is to review some of the points made about the process of evolution, and to point out the correct way to understand this topic. Even if one disagrees with the conclusions that scientists have made, there is no excuse to misrepresent their views.

To begin with a general point that can be repeated through-out the presentation: Evolution is merely a process of gradual change over time. Evolution (as a scientific discipline) does not even try to explain the ORIGIN of life – that is a completely different field called “abiogenesis”. Evolution is a process whereby the genetic structure of an organism changes over successive generations – and those changes build up over time to ‘reshape’ the descendants. When enough of those changes accumulate to the point where the descendants are vastly different to each other, they are then considered to be a different species.

The mistake that keeps getting repeated in this video, is the suggestion that the existence of this process rules out the handiwork of a Creator, and therefore those who accept this process reject the existence or power of God.

This point can’t be stressed enough: those in our community who have accepted the evidence for evolution, are NOT dismissing God from the picture. Their position merely implies a view on the methods and processes God utilised to bring his creation to this point that we see today.

The post below is structured around the video. The key points being made are shown with the times so that readers can find the context of the points being made in the video. Associated with each point from the video, is a comment on the point being made.

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Creation or Evolution (Why I don’t believe in Evolution)

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[00:56] “Evolution is accepted as the answer to the origin of life”.

Comment: This is wrong. Those who understand evolution do not confuse/conflate evolution (modification over time) and abiogenesis (start of life). Only those who do not understand the Theory of Evolution suggest that it explains the origin of life.

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[02:25] Man can’t calculate the number of stars. Compared to Isa 40:25-26 which says God created and named all of them.

Comment: Agreed, the number of stars is wonderful proof of God’s creative power. But, the stars are an astronomical or celestial concept. Their might and wonder does not disprove the existence of a biological process on earth.

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[03:00] The speaker suggests that God’s creating of the stars (Isa 40:2-26) is challenged by evolution.

Comment: This is a completely nonsensical statement, because biological evolution has nothing to do with astronomy.

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[06:00] “I want to give you a number of reasons why I don’t personally believe in evolution, and they are going to be based on the Bible, and they are going to be based on the observation of science. Now I am not a scientist, but I do have the capacity I think, to rationally explore logic, and to rationally put together concepts and ideas. I think you are in a very similar position, and I want to present the evidence tonight to demonstrate why in actual fact the belief in the theory of evolution doesn’t really hold water. It’s not sustainable from scripture or from logic itself…”

Comment: Right here, in this sentence, is the problem that causes so much unnecessary angst in our community. We are not scientists, and yet we presume to know more about these topics then those who are specialists in these fields. As the subsequent points discussed in the video demonstrate, because we are not specialists in these fields, we simply don’t understand what we are talking about – and we make all sorts of erroneous assumptions about the topic. As long as this practice continues, there will always be unnecessary conflict based on uninformed and mistaken views.

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[09:20] “God created all things as complete and functioning organisms” “God did not create half-evolved, half-mutated species…”

Comment: This is a particularly senseless thing to say, because the fact that organisms survive implies that they are fully functional. That something changes over a prolonged period of time, does not make it “half-mutated” or “half-evolved”.

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[10:30] “All things created after its kind”. They will reproduce after their kind. This implies things will stay as they are, and there “is no evolution or migration of one species to another”.

Comment: Sadly this comment is easily proven wrong by even the most basic of biological and genetic studies today. A simple google search on “speciation” will provide some excellent reading material. (

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[11:25] (Psa 104:24) “How manifold are thy works”. Still discovering species. The diversity of life.

Comment: The diversity of species is actually one of the strongest proofs of evolution, and certainly does not DISPROVE it.

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[12:55] “The earth is full of God’s riches, and this challenges evolution.”

Comment: This is another non sequitur. The fact that the earth is full of God’s riches does not negate a biological process creating that diversity.

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[13:08] Prov 3:19-20. The creation of the world is governed by intelligence, and knowledge, and wisdom.

Comment: Agreed, many atheists reject that the world is governed by an intelligent creator. However, once again the point must be made that those in our community who understand the processes of evolution, do not dispute this. And, the fact that there is an intelligent creator, does not negate the existence of a biological process of descent with modification.

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[14:00] “Evolution cannot explain the first cause” The Big Bang, etc. The speaker calls it “the first cause”.

Comment: The Big Bang is a cosmological theory that has nothing to do with biological processes. Again, this is NOT evolution! The speaker says, “Evolution does not give you a starting point.” Well, this is true. It cannot define or explain, or give any kind of idea to a first cause. But those who study evolution do not suggest that it can.

The speaker makes the point that his “first problem with evolution is that it cannot explain the First Cause”…. Once again, let’s make the point – those who study evolution do not suggest that it can. That problem resides with a completely different field of science (abiogenesis). So we need to be clear that uncertainty, or lack of knowledge about the “first cause”, does not negate the existence of a process of descent with modification. The speaker is confusing and conflating two very different concepts.

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[15:30] “Evolution cannot explain male-female reproduction”

Comment: Agreed, this is one of evolutionary theory’s biggest challenges. But again, this doesn’t imply it hasn’t happened. Yes, complex reproductive systems work beautifully. Yes, that cross-species fertilisation produces infertility is also true; but these do not imply genetic mutation doesn’t happen within a species.

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[17:30] “Evolution cannot explain the absence of transitional forms in the fossil record”

“I expect to see the fossil of a half-form, half mutated species” and animal that is developing eyes, or developing lungs”

Comment: This has to be one of the tiredest and most hapless arguments raised against evolution. As discussed above, nothing is “half-formed or half-mutated”. Furthermore, the evidence for transitional fossils is beyond doubt. The reader can find more on this subject here (

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[18:40] The speaker quotes “Gliedman, 1982 p90-91” who says “No fossil or other physical evidence directly connects man to ape…”

Comment: I have been unable to find this book or reference on the web, and thus cannot really comment on the context of the quote. Furthermore, the book quoted was published in 1982, which was long before the genetic discoveries of recent years which have put the existence of a common ancestor between man and ape beyond dispute.

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[20:10] “No one has an answer to the burst of life in the Cambrian explosion”

Comment: Yes, it’s true that there was a “Cambrian Explosion”, and it does present a number of challenging and important questions. No-one disputes this, but let’s put it into perspective. The Cambrian explosion lasted 20 million years! ( Even though we have many questions about something that happened over 540 million years ago, nothing about what happened during this time undermines or disproves descent with modification.

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[20:30] The speaker quotes Henry Gee (Nature, 412 (July) “Return to the planet of the Apes” to assert that Gee is saying “there is no fossil evidence transitioning chimp to man”

Comment: This is a complete misquotation and misrepresentation of Gee’s work. Firstly, chimps did not TRANSITION to Man. Chimps and Man have a common ancestor. This has been proven through genetic advances since Gee wrote his book. Therefore Gee is NOT saying fossil evidence of this transition is lacking, because he would be the first to assert that no such transition took place.

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[21:15] Evolution is not supported by the laws of genetics. “Mutations are generally harmful to the species, and natural section ignores the providence of God”

Comment: Precisely which laws of genetics would this be referring to? The “Laws of Genetics” are Mendel’s laws, which are:

1. the Law of Dominance

2. the Law of Segregation

3. the Law of Independent Assortment

…and none of these laws suggest that mutations are a problem. Yes, while mutations can indeed be harmful, many are not. The speaker makes the erroneous assumption that all mutations result in deformity or additional organs, that mutations do not advance the species, and are harmful to the species.

Ironically, it is the study of genetics that has shown us just how many mutations do occur from generation to generation, and these are NOT always harmful.

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[22:34] The speaker suggests that there is no evidence that the theory of natural selection results in the emergence of new species. This is because food must evolve simultaneously with the species that eat it. “Evolutionists are struggling with the fact that how can a cell develop the ability to assimilate food when the food is still evolving”

Comment: Yes, the quote used on the slide does indeed discuss a complex ecosystem of food, digestive processes and so on. But again, it is basic biology to understand how organisms of differing complexities survive. Just because some ecosystems are complex, does not imply simpler ones don’t work. So no, “evolutionists” are not “struggling with this fact”, nor does the quote on the slide does suggest they are.

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[25:10] The complexity and uniqueness of life. The right everything and conditions for life. This is more than just blind chance.

Comment: All these points are true, and no-one disputes our universe is not a magnificent place. Creation is truly a wonderful work of God. But again, this “wonder” does not negate a process of common descent.

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[27:45] Evolution can’t explain symbiotic relationships. Eg. Yucca Plant, and Pronuba Moth

“Plenty of other examples where there is an interdependence between plant and animal, which couldn’t have happened if the plant evolved millions of years before the animal”

Comment: This point is based on a complete lack of understanding of even the most basic concepts in evolutionary biology. The speaker’s comment that “evolution says the plant evolved millions of years before the moth, and evolutionists have no answer to that” is complete nonsense, because symbiotic organisms would have evolved together. This is known as mutualism. Is it fascinating? Absolutely. Is it remarkable? Absolutely. But it does not disprove a biological process of descent with modification.

However, on top of that, consider this quote, “[in the flower, the moths] start to eat the pollen, and all of the nutrients according to that, and also the seeds that have developed in that; and having eaten that, they cut a hole in the flower, and they use a little nylon thread, and they go into the earth, and they hatch the next generation…”

Aside from the fact that this process is so badly described – a nylon thread. Really? Nylon? Given it is a synthetic polymer, Nylon is hardly the stuff a moth or plant would exude…

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[32:30] The speaker makes the point that Irreducible Complexity disapproves evolution.

Comment: This is a common argument against evolution made prominent by the Intelligent Design (ID) movement. However, it has been demonstrated that even these systems have evolved, and that the very systems that the ID movement assert are “irreducibly complex” exist in less complex forms in nature. Those who would like to learn more about this could start with this link (

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[36:10] The speaker discusses photosynthesis, again asserting that “evolution has not got an answer” for this.

Comment: No one would suggest photosynthesis is not a wonderful process, But it does not disprove evolution. The argument that “it’s wonderful, therefore evolution is false” is hollow. Precisely HOW does photosynthesis disprove descent with modification?

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[38:00] “The Complexity of life presents impossible odds for evolution”.

Between 38:00 and 52:00 the speaker offers a number of examples about how wonderful are the body’s systems and organs, and suggests that “the complexity and magnitude defies imagination”.

Comment: This is what is known as an “Argument of incredulity” which is a logical fallacy that occurs when someone decides that something did not happen, because they cannot personally understand how it could happen.

For example, the speaker makes a big issue molecules transitioning to cells using a quote from the University of Liverpool that states, “At this point we can pass over several hundred million years of evolution…” Firstly, I have not been able to find this quote online so I am unable to verify the comment, but if it is an accurate copy, then this quote has clearly been written for those at an introductory level. For those interested in understanding how molecules transition to cells, there is a more detailed description here ( Also, let’s not forget that the “building blocks” of our genome (DNA, RNA, and Proteins) are molecules.

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[52:40] “Shared DNA simply means the same creator designed the whole system…. That’s why there are similarities between the species – what works in one, works in the other”

Comment: The speaker makes the point that shared DNA implies the same creator. I doubt any one would argue that point. But he has overlooked the fact that what’s broken in one is also broken in the other. Thus the question that begs asking, is why would a creator use the same broken genes, and the same mutations, and the same partial sequences? The fact the same mutations and non-functional sequences can be found across species is the very proof that exists for common descent. There simply is no other explanation. But having said that, once again the point can be made, that this argument does not refute the process of descent with modification.

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[52:55] “Evolution offers absolutely zero hope of everlasting life. Zero hope. In fact evolution is very, very clear – live your life now, because it’s the only life you’ve got.”

Comment: Let’s recap something. At the start of the talk, around the 4:10 mark, the speaker specifically defines evolution as “the change in the inherited characteristics of biological populations over successive generations…” It defies logic that he then equates this process with everlasting life. Strictly speaking it’s true, a biological process that results in descent with modification will not provide one with a hope of everlasting life. But that’s because one is a spiritual concept, and the other is a biological one, not because one’s an alternative to the other.

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By way of conclusion:

This talk has been promulgated publicly, on the internet as “the clear teaching of the Bible”, representing our community to the world. Yet it portrays such a profound lack of knowledge and understanding on the very subject it is purporting to refute. This is not how the gospel should be preached, nor is it how God’s word should be represented.

It is my hope that the earnest reader will follow up the links I have provided, so that irrespective of their views on evolution, they will at least find themselves better informed as to what is ACTUALLY taught on the subject.

The Soft Tissue Saga

The topic of soft dinosaur tissue has been doing the rounds again, and so it could be useful to explain some of the details about this topic. Very briefly, this is what the issue is about:

Mary Schweitzer is a palaeontologist who discovered remnants of soft tissue in fossilised dinosaur remains. The science community has viewed her research as extraordinary, because it has opened the door to new discoveries about preservation and decay. Meanwhile, certain religious organisations have used her research to assert that dating methods are wrong, because soft tissue couldn’t possibly last as long as she says.

So, the question is this: Does her research show that dating methods are wrong, because there couldn’t possibly be soft tissue after 60million years; or, does her research show that there are situations in which tissue remnants can be persevered for extraordinarily long periods of time?

Let’s look into this further…

Mary Schweitzer’s journey into this research started in 1992 after she had recently graduated and was working in a laboratory. She was preparing microscope slides of a 60-million year old Tyrannosaurus rex specimen, and discovered what appeared to be blood cells. Her mentor (renowned palaeontologist Jack Horner) asked her what she thought she was seeing, and she replied, “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.” He challenged her to prove they were not red blood cells. So she set out to prove they weren’t – and that effort led to her PhD. ⁠[1]

By doing various tests she found that somewhere in the fossil bones were compounds that were consistent with heme, which is a small, relatively stable iron-containing molecule that gives blood its red colour, and is the key oxygen-carrying component of the hemoglobin protein. (This bit about ‘iron-containing molecules’ is important – we’ll come back to that later.) She published her research in 1997, explaining her conclusions that the T.rex fossil contained fragments of hemoglobin molecules (not actual blood cells).

Schweitzer continued to do more of this research, and soft tissue topic surfaced again in 2005, when Schweitzer and her co-authors reported the discovery of intact blood vessels and other soft tissues in bone from a 65-million-year-old specimen of T.rex [⁠2]. As before, scientists were initially skeptical of these findings, as no-one ever imagined soft tissue could survive this long; and although some researchers attempted alternative explanations⁠ [3], these were never successfully substantiated, and Schweitzer’s research stood.

Schweitzer kept on investigating how it could be possible for rock-hard fossils that are tens of millions of years old, to have remnants of soft tissues inside them. It must be noted that at no stage has her research ever provided anything that would cast doubt on established dating methods. For example, the samples used for her 2005 paper are from one of the better dated dinosaur bones known to exist. The age of this bone is based on 86 separate chemical analyses on three different kinds of minerals, based on four independent radiometric decay series [4]. The dinosaur they were studying came from the Hell’s Creek Formation, which is one of the more famous and intensely studied dinosaur fossil sites spreading across areas of Montana, South Dakota, and North Dakota. This area and its fossils have been rigorously and independently dated on numerous occasions, always producing the same consistent results.

It wasn’t dating methods that her research refuted, but rather existing models of degradation, decay and fossilisation. Schweitzer and her team hypothesised that these tissues were “remnants of original proteinaceous material, highly altered by beta oxidation of original proteins to form long-chain hydrocarbon polymers”. If this was the case, then mechanisms must exist to allow their persistence across geological time. THAT had been the focus of Schweitzer’s research. [⁠5]

In 2014, she published further research showing how soft tissue structures can be preserved over millions of years, through the way which iron and oxygen chemistry “contributes to preservation in deep time, perhaps by both free-radical-mediated fixation and anti-microbial activity” [⁠6]. Because Schweitzer’s team always observed iron particles in association with these soft tissues, this is what they investigated further. Their research explained both the association of iron with many exceptionally preserved fossils, and the enhanced preservation of tissues, cells and molecules over deep time. As a result of this research, iron and oxygen chemistry are now seen to play key roles in the preservation of biomaterials after death, because it showed that iron released from some proteins becomes available for free-radical chemistry with oxygen, leading to protein and lipid cross-linking, tissue fixation, and resistance to enzymatic/bacterial degradation. There are three possibilities for this: The iron may be directly protecting proteins by blocking certain degradation activities; or, it may be providing protection indirectly by binding to oxygen, and thus preventing oxidative damage; or, it is outcompeting bacterial mechanisms that would lead to decay [⁠7]. Interestingly enough, during this research another team found similar results doing a different study, which also showed that iron influences preservation of biomolecules across geological time, further supporting the longevity of some iron-containing biomolecules⁠. [8]

Over the years, Schweitzer’s research certainly got the attention of science community, and it placed her under intense scrutiny. In her words: “There was so much interest. There was so much criticism. But I had data… I learned so much through the process. I’m so grateful. I learned how to be a careful scientist.” [9]

But if Schweitzer’s research intrigued the science community – it sent the creationist world into a frenzy, as young earth creationists sought to use her research to discredit established dating methods. Their claim is that it is simply not possible for soft-tissue to last tens of millions of years; ergo, dating methods are flawed and in doubt.

Schweitzer has repeatedly tried to refute these claims, and to explain the reasons why this is not what her research reveals. For example, in one interview she said, “One thing that does bother me, though, is that young earth creationists take my research and use it for their own message, and I think they are misleading people about it. Pastors and evangelists, who are in a position of leadership, are doubly responsible for checking facts and getting things right, but they have misquoted me and misrepresented the data”. [10]

In another article for the Smithsonian she noted that “[Christians] treat you really bad. They twist your words and they manipulate your data.” [⁠11]

What makes her patience towards young earth creationists more notable, is that she was once one herself. Again, in her own words:

“One day, shortly after I finished that program, I saw that palaeontologist Jack Horner — everyone knew him in Montana — was teaching a class on campus at Montana State. I went to class that first day of the semester and after his introductory lecture, I walked up and said, “Hi, Jack. I am a young earth creationist, and I’m going to convince you you’re wrong about evolution. Can I sit in on your class?”

He said, “I’m Jack. I’m an atheist. Have a seat.”

And instead of calling me out or making fun of my beliefs, he showed me data. No one had ever shown me data before. Often in the Christian community people aren’t talking about scientific data. Instead, Christians may hear about scientists: “They’re evil. They don’t believe in God. They’re atheists.” But many Christians haven’t heard how much data supports an ancient earth and evolution. Nobody’s told them.

Jack never tried to change my mind about anything. He just said, “Here’s the data.” And about halfway through that first semester, I began to see that my young earth views could not be supported in light of all the data. I knew God and was not willing to turn away from him. And I began to see that the two weren’t mutually exclusive as I had been taught.” [12]

The point has to be made then, that Schweitzer, having been a young earth creationist herself, fully understands both sides of the debate. If the scientist responsible for the research refutes the claims of young earth creationists – then it is her opinion we should be favouring. It’s her research after all!

Schweitzer’s research has been truly ground breaking. She upended what we knew about preservation, and then through careful research has begun to find answers to the problem. Lately, those answers have been corroborated by independent research teams who are finding similar results. So what her research has shown, is not that dating methods are shaky, but there are preservation mechanisms at work that we previously did not know about or understand. Through all this, she has remained a dedicated Christian who has been an inspirational role-model for those who have sought to find a balance between their faith in God and their love for the sciences.

1 Marcia Bosscher, The Unlikely Paleontologist: An Interview with Mary Schweitzer (Part 1) (12 Jul 2016)

2 MH Schweitzer et al, Soft-Tissue Vessels and Cellular Preservation in Tyrannosaurus rex (Science, 2015) 307(5717):1952-1955

3 TG Kaye, G Gaugler, Z Sawlowicz, Dinosaurian Soft Tissues Interpreted as Bacterial Biofilms (PLoS ONE, 2008) 3 (7): e2808. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0002808

4 Gary Hurd, Dino Blood Redux, (TalkOrigins, 2005)

5 MH Schweitzer, J Wittmeyer, J Horner, Soft tissue and cellular preservation in vertebrate skeletal elements from the Cretaceous to the present (Proceedings of the Royal Society, 22 Jan 2007) doi:10.1098/rspb.2006.3705

6 MH Schweitzer et al, A role for iron and oxygen chemistry in preserving soft tissues, cells and molecules from deep time (Proc. R. Soc. B., 2014) 281: 20132741.

7 MH Schweitzer et al, A role for iron and oxygen chemistry in preserving soft tissues, cells and molecules from deep time (Proc. R. Soc. B, 2014) 281: 20132741.

8 DE Greenwalt et al, Hemoglobin-derived porphyrins preserved in a Middle Eocene blood- engorged mosquito (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 2014) 5. doi:10.1073/pnas.1310885110

9 Marcia Bosscher, The Unlikely Paleontologist: An Interview with Mary Schweitzer (Part 2) (13 Jul 2016)

10 Emily Ruppel, Not So Dry Bones: An interview with Mary Schweitzer (BioLogos Blog, 21 Jul 2014)

11 Helen Fields, Dinosaur Shocker (, May 2006)

12 Marcia Bosscher, The Unlikely Paleontologist: An Interview with Mary Schweitzer (Part 1) (12 Jul 2016)