Soft Tissue, Equivocation and Religious Necessity

In the summer of 2003 a remarkably well-preserved T-Rex specimen was unearthed in the Hell Creek Formation in Montana. A small team of researchers, led by Mary Schweitzer, took a piece of its femur, dissolved away the outer mineral matrix and were greatly surprised to find structural remains of blood vessels – hollow and flexible. Within these vessel-remnants were red, round micro-structures resembling blood cells. Their findings were subsequently published in the March 2005 issue of Science magazine, in an article entitled: “Soft-Tissue Vessels and Cellular Preservation in Tyrannosaurus rex”. This discovery was not the earliest (or latest) regarding so-called “soft tissue” found in paleontological excavation. But it has been the research most-often referenced by Young-Earth Creation (YEC) organizations such as Answers in Genesis (AIG) and the Institute for Creation Research (ICR), due largely to the counter-intuitive findings. Soft Tissue – wow! Isn't this an evidence for recent creation?

Well, given the way the YEC websites characterize “soft tissue”, you might think so.

Soft Tissue

For example, Dr. David Menton, an AIG author, wrote: “Scientists have recently made the startling discovery of a dinosaur skeleton that still retains well preserved soft tissue including blood vessels, cells and connective tissue … It certainly taxes one’s imagination to believe that soft tissue and cells could remain so relatively fresh in appearance for the tens of millions of years of supposed evolutionary history.

A 2006 AIG website article “The Scrambling Continues”states: “Last year at about this time, it was disclosed that scientists had made an amazing discovery of a Tyrannosaurus rex thigh bone that still retained well-preserved soft tissue (which included blood vessels and cells). … Dr. Schweitzer found flexible connective tissue and branching blood vessels, as well as intact cells”.

And Brian Thomas, M.S. wrote: “In recent decades, soft, squishy tissues have been discovered inside fossilized dinosaur bones. They seem so fresh that it appears as though the bodies were buried only a few thousand years ago. Since many think of a fossil as having had the original bone material replaced by minerals, the presence of actual bone--let alone pliable blood vessels, red blood cells, and proteins inside the bone--is quite extraordinary. These finds also present a dilemma. Given the fact that organic materials like blood vessels and blood cells rot, and the rates at which certain proteins decay, how could these soft tissues have been preserved for ten thousand, let alone 65 million or more, years?”

This sort of characterization (e.g. pliable blood vessels, intact cells, so fresh, well-preserved, soft, squishy), and many other YEC examples I could have quoted, give the distinct impression that scientists basically broke into the bone, looked inside and found material resembling what a butcher might be familiar with, although with some aging. A quick search of Spectrum commenters over the past several years suggests to me that this is indeed the idea communicated by YEC apologists. For example:

  • It's like when they found soft tissue on a Tyrannosaurus rex bone which was suppose to be 68 million years old. Their doing back flips now trying to explain it.”

  • Is '200 million year old’ soft tissue and blood cells, discovered by Darwinists, not ‘good evidence’ for at least young life on earth? “

  • So, anything that doesn't fit, gets set aside or explained away as an anomaly; or they attempt to discredit it; such as the discovery of soft tissue in dinosaur bones which are supposed to be millions of years old.”

But, are YEC writers using the term “soft tissue” in a way consistent with Schweitzer and other paleontologists? No. Paleontologists simply mean: any material from an organism that is not considered hard parts of the creature. Hard parts include bone and shell, which, comparatively, resists decay and retains its structure long enough so that, in rare instances, fossilization may occur.

This definition says nothing whatsoever about the condition of the material when found. But YEC use the phrase “soft tissue” to connote freshness and existence of actual tissue. And this would be the most natural idea that would come to mind for anyone unfamiliar with the way scientists use the term. But YEC writers have not explained the proper definition to their audience. They have taken advantage of this likely reader (mis)understanding to communicate something quite different from what it is supposed to mean. There is a word for this sort of of argumentative move – equivocation.

Equivocation

Equivocation is the misleading use of a term with more than one meaning by glossing over which meaning is intended at a particular time. A writer can use a term that was meant in a one way but silently slide from that definition to a distinctly different one. An obvious example is: “Sure philosophy helps you argue better, but do we really need to encourage people to argue? There's enough hostility in this world”.

The YEC community has an agenda, that the Earth was created recently, somewhere between 6,000 and perhaps 10,000 years. There is nothing wrong with this, per se, as it could be treated as an hypothesis – something to try and prove. But equivocation, assuming it is employed deliberately, is fallacious. Now, I can understand how individuals like the Spectrum commenters quoted above have faith in the scientific legitimacy of the YEC sources from which they read about “soft tissue”. It's much harder for me to ignore the choices made by the YEC authors and organizations who read the original research and have an obligation, if they wish to be ethical, to define terms accurately.

This complaint of misrepresentation was made by none other than Schweitzer herself who, interestingly, is also a practicing evangelical Christian. In a 2014 interview she said: “young earth creationists take my research and use it for their own message, and I think they are misleading people about it. … they have misquoted me and misrepresented the data.”

Well then, what is the accurate story?

First and foremost it is not true that intact blood vessels, cells and proteins were found. The discovered material has been chemically transformed and fragmented, albeit derived from such original substances. Schweitzer herself was very cautious in her conclusions, originally stating that her results were merely consistent with the presence of red blood cells and protein remnants. Some of the artifacts were indeed pliable while others were crystallized and inflexible.

Now, it is absolutely the case that conventional science has been quite taken by surprise with such findings – now coming in over a 20+ year period. But not for the reasons YEC apologists infer – that they must now conclude that the material is young. It is severely misleading for YEC articles, like the one quoted above, to be titled “The Scrambling Continues” – giving the impression that paleontologists are faced with an inevitable young-earth conclusion, and are consequently desperate to save their cherished evolutionary theory.

Researchers initially could not imagine how such “soft tissue” could survive for the length of time consistent with the radiometric dating of the deposition locations. Now, one possible answer to the surprise findings is that: a) it didn't survive so long because it is relatively young. But another is that: b) some artifacts actually can survive and, because they didn't expect this, no one was either looking for any or investigating possible mechanisms of survival. The YEC writers have opted for choice “a”, but have used equivocation in describing what has been found – a move designed to foster a misleading picture of the material in their readers' minds (who mostly are not scientifically oriented). And, that skewed picture produces the desired impression – that the earth must be young. See, they found soft tissue.

Much of the more recent work has now involved extracting and identifying the various “soft tissue” artifacts. In many instances material found consisted of molecules with one of two properties: extensive cross-linking, or chemical makeup similar to graphite One such example is blood vessel artifacts. A blood vessel is an extremely stable structure which, in life, has to withstand significant pressure from blood flow. It is composed, in part, of extensively cross-linked collagen fibrils. A stable biochemical structure, however, is insufficient for preservation. External conditions must also be right – and they rarely are. However, in Schweitzer's follow-on research, the investigators contend that evidence points to environmental minerals having been precipitated onto surfaces of the preserved tissue, effectively entombing it. Such molecular structures then, while complex, can remain stable over time, if and when isolated from the usual causes of degradation – oxygen, water and bacteria.

This is now a very active area of research but enough evidence has accumulated to, at minimum, dismiss the conclusion that it is impossible for such material to survive for the conventionally-postulated durations. This is not a case of old-earth science doggedly and desperately searching for a way out. There are many reasons – well beyond the scope of this article – for trusting the dating results presently accepted. And, if anything, the evidence for an old earth has grown significantly over the past 50 years.

Religious Necessity

The Answers In Genesis organization's Statement of Faith includes the following: “The Bible is divinely inspired and inerrant throughout. Its assertions are factually true in all the original autographs. It is the supreme authority in everything it teaches. Its authority is not limited to spiritual, religious, or redemptive themes but includes its assertions in such fields as history and science. … The account of origins presented in Genesis is a simple but factual presentation of actual events and therefore provides a reliable framework for scientific research into the question of the origin and history of life, mankind, the earth, and the universe.

Now, whether or not YEC is true, one clear inference is this: AIG is ultimately prevented by this Statement from doing pure science. Why? Because the scientific method is not positioned. It lets the data speak. Period. Hypotheses are then formed, tested, and rejected if the evidence so warrants. Of course, this is not to say that all scientists behave this way at all times. People have always gotten caught up in their favored positions, and many scientists also embrace scientism. But, as a method, science is not constrained to adherence of any a priori position.

AIG (indeed all YEC), however, is so constrained. If you just casually read the above AIG Statement it may seem perfectly orthodox. And that is likely because this is historically the way the Bible has generally been understood by conservative Christians. But, no matter what your personal beliefs might be, I hope you can see that the assertions and positions specified in the Statement go well beyond necessity. Well beyond what actual the Biblical text demands. Interpretive choices have been mingled into the Biblical material for so long that, for many, it becomes indistinguishable from what the text states. Then, at that point, believing YEC seems to be necessary.

This is not the first time Christianity has tried to draw a “line in the sand” of orthodoxy that placed it contra science. It happened with Galileo. There was Biblical support proposed for why the sun revolved around the earth. At present it is hard to understand why Christians felt threatened about the topic. And few believers would now understand the Bible in a way that demands this geocentrism. We humans can indeed be wrong.

But I believe present YEC adherents would raise (at least) two major reasons why they think this time it's different. One is the belief that YEC is mandatory or the entire gospel will also fall. This is a theological slippery slope argument. Second, evolution and a good God seem utterly incompatible. The union of those two ideas seems to inevitably lead to theistic evolution – a concept that would see God using suffering and death as a creative mechanism. Understandably, this is tough to reconcile. But what we have here is one significant context of the Problem of Evil – the most difficult theological problem for believers. And these problems are widely considered by YECers to be de facto unsolvable. So, with such presuppositions, YEC seems to be required.

My reaction is twofold. First, hard theological problems ought to be addressed theologically. They are being obscured by a presumed scientific cover. Second, it is fine to make YEC an investigative premise. That is, start by trying to see if the facts fit the concept of a recent, literal six day creation. This endeavor has been made and I have no quarrel with any out-of-the-box attempts. But what the YEC organizations have subsequently produced is not acceptable – scientifically or ethically. Many, many Christians read YEC material and, without much investigation, accept it because it sounds scientific. More centrally, they are also invested in YEC's presumed religious necessity. And few have done the uncomfortable and time-consuming work of comparing the YEC assertions to conventional science and evaluating them on a scientific and argumentative basis. Do this and a different story emerges.

Rich Hannon is Columns Editor for SpectrumMagazine.org.

If you respond to this article, please: Make sure your comments are germane to the topic; be concise in your reply; demonstrate respect for people and ideas whether you agree or disagree with them; and limit yourself to one comment per article, unless the author of the article directly engages you in further conversation. Comments that meet these criteria are welcome on the Spectrum Website. Comments that fail to meet these criteria will be removed.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/7817
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This discussion is identical to so many others and the outcome is always, always the same. Why do we continue to engage?

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well, engagement brings the opportunity to learn that likely wouldn’t be there without it…before i stumbled onto spectrum, i had no idea that there were so many evidences for YEC…i hadn’t even heard of christian scientists…i had always thought that accepting the biblical account requires faith…but having looked into things for about three yrs - i think it’s been about three yrs - i now know that accepting what the bible is saying requires no faith at all…i think this is a fascinating situation…

one of schweitzer’s working theories is that iron from dinosaur blood, itself, causes cross-linking with proteins from blood vessels, leading to a type structure that can withstand degradation…this theory is challenged by brian thomas here:

http://www.icr.org/article/dinosaur-soft-tissue-preserved-by-blood/

and it now appears that so-called soft tissue is being found in less well-preserved specimens, as well, using focused ion beams to slice across fossil bone:

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/06/150609113703.htm

creation science’s mantra now appears to be: “Dinosaur soft tissue will be found not only in rare circumstances, but rather easily, i.e., when looked for”:

http://kgov.com/another-confirmed-creation-science-prediction-on-dinosaur-soft-tissue

Presumably, you are not are not referring to “evidences” as found in articles such as the above Spectrum article.


But this discussion opens with such a respectful tone, efcee. Perhaps the subsequent disscusants will emulate Mr Hannon in tone and demeanor as they contribute to the conversation. The discussion does not have to devolve into a shouting/spitting match.

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Good to see the explanation of what “soft tissue” really means. Well done.

I’m too busy this evening to hit this particular literature hard (I’m working on something altogether different right now), but I read quite a bit on the topic some years ago and one hypothesis for the presentation was that biofilms (sheets of bacteria) protected the soft tissue from degradation. If the author or anyone else wishes to look up the latest on this or other mechanisms of protection, I’d be grateful.

BTW, the position I respect most is the one that equivocates: maybe, possibly, suggests. We don’t have to have all the answers, and we don’t need to hold opinions (on science matters especially) that are inflexible.

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Perhaps what is more important is understanding how hard science (if there is such an immutable thing ) dissolves soft minds (these are in uncontested overabundance). I suspect that “soft minds” does not coercively imply “flexible”, and likewise suggest hard science is more malleable. Why is it so hard to accept that both minds and science do well with liberal dose of humility and self examination, or risk reification of fiction into fact?

“Come let us reason” invites us to much…however the clamor of men drowns out the silences of God.

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Jeremy, your statement suggests you’re exactly the kind of reader Rich was referring to when he said:

And:

You’ve been lied to, Jeremy, but you appear to eagerly eat up the lies and believe them, as something that bolsters your faith. In the words of Mark Train, “It’s easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled.”

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What if Seventh-day Adventism were to realize it as a religious necessity to read Genesis as not about the age of the earth, but rather the undeniable reality still that no one can escape death by figuring it out?

What if Seventh-day Adventism were to see the truth of Revelation 14 being that we fear God, we give glory to God, and we worship God because we realize that we bring nothing with which to negotiate with our Creator for our escape from death?

What if Seventh-day Adventism were to reset to the dawn of October 23, 1844? What if it was truly those first believers’ best theological calculations and deepest commitments having been blasted wholesale by the midnight prior leaving them theologically huddling naked through the darkest and coldest stretch of the night that made it possible for them as dawn broke to realize ‘the most sublime sense of God’s presence’ of their lifetime, which is how they described their experience?

What if Seventh-day Adventism were to renounce our all too internally divisive 28 statements of Fundamental Beliefs as mere homage to the children of Israel’s pleadings with Moses to return to Egypt? What if we once again were to simply accept the undifferentiated Bible as our creed and the sense of God’s presence within as the measure of our hope and faith and in turn love one for another and everyone we meet on our road to Jericho?

What if Seventh-day Adventism were to preach life and salvation as inherent in the love of Jesus our creator and as being beyond our power to escape? What if we begged forgiveness for ever having preached death and damnation by reason of individual humans’ failure to sufficiently earnestly lay claim to God’s grace?

What if Seventh-day Adventism were to embrace theology as truly and merely the imperfect attempt to explain faith, rather than the measure of allowable faith for Seventh-day Adventism?

What if Seventh-day Adventism were to no longer sense the need to explain itself because people simply liked being with us because we sensed Jesus’ love for them as the same as for us?

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A Of much more pressing interest to me, is not WHEN these dinosaurs were created, but WHY.

Some dinosaurs were obviously plant eating vegetarians.
However, one picture is better than a thousand words-- the picture accompanying this article, clearly shows rows of carnivorous dinosaur teeth, some teeth twelve inches long.
Tyrranosaurus Rex, in addition to the gnashing teeth, had enormous bone crushing jaws, nearly four feet long, huge clawed feet, and a lashing tail, capable of eviscerating any nearby animal or human. These accoutrements were not those of a benign and docile beast, but those of an horrific hunter/predator.

My London grandchildren were is awe, when we visited the LONDON NATURAL HISTORY museum, where the fifteen foot high skeletons of Tyrranosaurus Rex, completely dwarfed the toddlers.

The museum curators opined that these lethal killing machines could not have co-existed with mankind, otherwise humans would have become extinct.

Ronald E Osborn’s splendid book, DEATH BEFORE THE FALL, elegantly tries to answer these concerns. The YEC crowd strains credulity when they argue that “amalgamation of species by antediluvians” created these cruel, carnivorous creatures.

A highly recommended recent movie, a documentary, called the EAGLE HUNTRESS, tells the tail of a thirteen year old Mongolian girl, who is the first female in her tribe, to become a hunter, using a tamed eagle as a weapon!

In this movie, close ups of these elegant eagles, show the huge talons, the flesh tearing beaks, and the eagle eyes, designed to spy prey from great altitudes. Fish eagles have a sophisticated fabric, akin to VELCRO, coating their talons, to prevent the slippery fish from escaping their grasp. Clearly their creator intended for them to be hunters/predators.
More importantly, the innate hunter instinct of the eagle, is dramatically demonstrated. Should antediluvians have been brialiiant enough to anatomically change a berry eating bird into a flesh tearing predator, how were they able to implant the neuronal pathways into the avian brain that programmed the birds to kill?

Theologians tell us that Satan, himself a created being, has ZERO creative powers. So why would a loving God, create such malignant monsters as
Tyrranosaurus Rex?

With each passing year, more and more remains of these creatures are being unearthed. Whether these remains had “soft tissue” or not,
is the least of the troubling questions which arise!
With or without “soft tissue” why were they created in the first place?

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Thanks, @efcee.

The question you’ve asked—“This discussion is identical to so many others and the outcome is always, always the same. Why do we continue to engage?”—is akin to this one: “Why do they keep making love songs? Don’t we have enough of them?”

To which one of my friends / mentors might coolly reply, as he once did, “Somebody turns 14 every day.”

HA

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The mass extinction event of 60-something million years is said to have wiped out say 80%of land life. Some individuals may have survived for a time thereafter. The meteor that crashed here on earth is also said to have dug out the Gulf of Mexico. I do not agree with the Creation of these and other predators and monstrosities here on the planet where humans had to fight their way out of the bush/grasslands located on the steppes of the Edin(AKA Garden of Eden). However, our earliest ancestors managed to do so after being expelled from the presence. They were expelled when the “snake” ,nickname for the Elohim geneticist(see the medical symbol still existing of the Caduceus) prematurely and without permission made our species able to reproduce by mating, instead of being reproduced by cloning. See Adam’s Rib Operation. The Elohim scientists went wild and created many outrageous life forms which they would not have been allowed to create in heaven. They were in fact EXPELLED from heaven for just that reason as some animals escaped up there and threatened life in heaven. They were ordered to stop ALL DNA MANIPULATION or find an empty planet where they could make whatever they wanted. They searched the cosmos and found earth. Our species, the crowning achievement of the Elohim presence on earth was created about 300,00 to 250,000 years ago. The YOM or “days” of Genesis could mean thousands , of years. Since planets are seemingly developed in clusters from burnt out stars they appear in groups comprising dozens or hundreds. Earth may therefore have had “nursery mates” which are now elsewhere. The above scenario is roughly what some earth scientists now broadly agree on. With reference to what we moderns think we know, as opposed to prescientific rustic recorders, Are our scenarios right???

The longer I am here at Spectrum the more I learn what I REALLY learned in church school, Academy, College, Sabbath School, Sermons.
Recently I have been seeing I missed hearing, or being aware of the word, GRACE.
It was keep Faith and Commandments because Judgment is coming. Fires and Torment.
Rev 14.
But lately I have been ACTUALLY hearing the words of Jesus – His summary of Keeping the 10.

  1. Love God. 2. Love Yourself. 3. Love Others.
    It is ALL Do’s.

Joe – Yes, the Bible is mostly stories. And God likes stories. Even the begats are stories. The Genesis Story is that everything was “Good”, not “Perfect”. Humans, animals, vegetation, insects and bacteria, and water life were to create and to make the earth “more good”. Humans were to fill the earth with people, to create art, music, literature.

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Steve, I have a feeling that the true message of Jesus was essentially the following:

“What you were told about God and the history of humans was inaccurate. Those were just stories that were given to try to make you behave. It didn’t work very well. I bring you a new perspective. You are not bad, not condemned by God or sin to burn forever in agony. God is not like that. God is love. Nothing you can do changes that. Live honestly and well. Learn to respect and forgive yourself and others. Treat everyone and everything with due consideration. You are not lost. Believe me. You are free. You have nothing at all to fear–including death. This is your salvation.”

I think this insight began for me in my late teens, as I began to understand the gospel of grace and hope. I accepted that the truth would make me free. Seeking truth and attempting to live an evidence-based life has been quite fulfilling to me. Looking back from age 75 I am at peace and, while I value and enjoy life, I have no fear of death.

Warm wishes to you and all at Spectrum.

Joe

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Even if most people respond to evidence and reasoning by closing their minds, some will benefit. If I could repent of being a life-long Republican, engagement can be worth the effort. (g)

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Here is the latest information on dinosaur soft tissue–this time preserved in amber and dated 99mm years old. If you want to know how old “soft tissue” is, then you can date its matrix or containing sediment and get pretty close.

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Good question . . . That they were created and did not just happen ex nihilo but were the direct consequence of a remarkable code found in the DNA/nucleotides tells us that they were created for a purpose - or rather some purpose, or other. I am led to wonder if there is not some aspects of the great God which we fail to understand simply because our minds cannot stretch that far. Even the words ‘created’ and ‘for a purpose’ might be the wrong words to use in or endeavour to understand God.

I recently listened to a physics professor from Oxford University,on YouTube, who spoke about the possibility that there will come a time when our knowledge enabling us to unlock the secrets of matter and what lies beyond will come to a stop simply because we do not possess the mental faculty to comprehend. I was astonished at his comment and wondered whether super computers will perhaps move beyond that point . . .

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Jonah was absolutely right. It is always dangerous to tell people what will happen unless they repent of their destructive actions. He knew he would be ridiculed for a successful warning of impending problems. It is really bad when people change their behaviour because of a warning as it changes the trajectory of history and means that the prediction is then wrong. It is much more satisfying to know you are right, be silent and then gloat by yourself about the disaster you secretly predicted. Perhaps Jesus suggestion about pearl before swine covers this situation.

mtskeels9496 I will take my own advice and keep silent other than to agree with you that “by their fruits you will know them”. We will have to wait and see if in 30 years time you are correct in your deprecation of expertise and espousal of anthropogenic climate change denial.

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Matthew 7:16

16 By their fruit you will recognize them." covers this situation. Your suggestion that people change their behavior by “warning” is flawed given that the warning has changed 180 degrees over the timeline the comic covers. From global cooling to global warming to where they got tired of being perpetually wrong and now go by “climate change” a nebulous term that allows them to not appear fools when they are wrong again.

The salient thing is that even if and when they are right, their attribution of mans influence as the main causal factor is demonstrably wrong in that “climate change” has happened throughout history and had nothing to do with primitive mans carbon emissions.
Ötzi is a nickname given to the well-preserved natural mummy of a man who lived between 3359 and 3105 BCE, with a 66 percent chance that he died between 3239 and 3105 BCE. He reappeared above the ice in 1991.

According to a study published by scientists in the journal Nature, the frozen continent antarctica was home to a “near-tropical” rainforest 52 million years ago, when temperatures measured about 68 degrees Fahrenheit.
The fact is that nature IS change and climate change activists display the most egregious forms of dyslexia when they claim to be advocates for nature and yet know nothing of its basic tenets.

Actually, you need to take into account plate tectonics. 52 million years ago, Antarctica was not where it is now, so any implication that it was “near-tropical” at the South or North Pole is not valid. The change agent responsible in this case is not climate but geophysics.

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