Scientist, fired by university after discovering soft tissue on dinosaur bone, settles lawsuit

by Gregory Tomlin, |
Mark Armitage/Facebook

NORTHRIDGE, California (Christian Examiner) – A scientist fired from California State University Northridge after he discovered soft tissue fibers on a triceratops horn and argued that the dinosaur bone could not have been millions of years old has settled a two-year-long lawsuit with the school.

According to The College Fix, Mark Armitage – who describes himself as a creationist – was blackballed by the school when he went public with microscopic images and descriptions of elastic soft tissue still attached to the horn in 2012. In court documents, he alleged the discovery supporting the idea of a "young earth" led to him being ostracized in the department.

One faculty member reportedly told him, "We're not going to tolerate your religion in this department."

Armitage, who was eventually fired, is no amateur and not necessarily a vocal creationist. He is well-published in peer-reviewed journals and past-president of the Southern California Society for Microscopy. He had worked at the university since 2010.

The controversy begain in 2012 when Armitage was working on the horn – the largest triceratops horn ever found – after discovering it in Hell Creek, Mont. Seeing the soft tissue fibers under the microscope, he dismissed the 65 million-year-old date attached to the fossil. Instead, he argued that it had to be around 4,000 years old.

Armitage published the findings in American Laboratory magazine in November 2012 and the Acta Histochemia journal in February 2013. He didn't last long after the publication of his views.

A microscopic image showing remaining soft tissue fibers on the horn of a triceratops. The presence of soft tissue led scientist Mark Armitage to conclude the horn was only around 4,000 years old, rather than the standard description of 65 million years. | Armitage/CRS photo

CSUN alleged at the time that the funding for his position was only temporary and had been depleted. But Armitage believed his firing was because of his findings. He sued the school under the Fair Employment and Housing Act.

His attorney, Alan Reinach with the Church State Council, a legal defense group associated with the Seventh Day Adventists, said CSUN settled the school with a six-figure payout equivalent to around 15 times his annual part-time salary, but the exact amount of the settlement was not disclosed. More important than the money, however, was the "vindication" Armitage received.

"To have CSUN associated with the 'creation heresy' – that was the capital offense," Reinach said. "In our view, they certainly would not have paid that kind of money if they did not recognize that we had them dead to rights. The state doesn't put large, six-figure settlement money out unless they are really concerned they are going to lose."

"The evidence was quite clear," Reinach said. "The stated reasons for saying they fired him were simply not true. There were lies and contradictions abounding from several of the key witnesses."

CSUN spokeswoman Carmen Ramos Chandler told The College Fix that the school's decision to let Armitage go was based on the "dwindling need for his [Armitage's] services" and not on his religious beliefs.

CSUN, she said, is "firmly committed to upholding academic freedom, free speech and a respect for all religious beliefs."

"The Superior Court did not rule on the merits of Mr. Armitage's complaint, and this voluntary settlement is not an indication of any wrongdoing," Chandler said. "The decision to settle was based on a desire to avoid the costs involved in a protracted legal battle, including manpower, time and state dollars."