Tracking Those Incredible Creationists — The Trail Continues
To the ethnography and analysis of creationist Paluxy River claims in issue XV of Creation/Evolution (Hastings, 1985), the following events are added.
February 10, 1985.
Steven Schafersman, Frederick Edwords, William Thwaites, James Cunliffe, and I visited the Reverend Carl Baugh's Creation Evidences Museum along with Walter Bradley and Roger Olsen, coauthors with Charles Thaxton of the pro-creationist book, The Mystery of Life's Origins. Baugh was not present, but a member of the Bob Summers family (local supporters of the reverend's efforts) was kind enough to open up the museum for us. Schafersman and I noted little change from the previous summer in the little cabin, save the absence of Baugh's guiding audiotape and the presence of a second dinosaur bone marking his second dinosaur find. All of us were allowed to closely inspect not only the alleged Cretaceous trilobite, supposedly found in the Paluxy riverbed, and the Moab bones but also the sectioned Burdick carvings which originally fooled Clifford Burdick decades ago into thinking that there were mantracks near Glen Rose. The hammer-in-stone was not on display; only a photo of it was hung on a wall.
We also briefly visited the McFall site, where months of inactivity and neglect left many features covered in silt and debris. I was able to point out to the group the approximate position downstream of the Taylor site where Glen Kuban, several students, and I worked months before to expose the identity of the trails thereapproximate, because returning rainfall had long since recovered the many dinosaur prints with sediment and flowing water.
February 25, 1985.
Gayle Golden, science writer for the Dallas Morning News, published her article on Baugh's work (Golden, 1985) after many hours interviewing not only Baugh but other creationists who are not so sympathetic with Baugh's work (for example, Gerhard Nickle and John Morris). Other critics interviewed were Al West, Glen Kuban, Frederick Edwords, Steven Schafersman, and I. Reactions to the article ranged from Kuban's feeling that Baugh's work was not criticized enough nor in sufficient detail to Baugh's view that he had been "slaughtered." Baugh accused his critics of launching a "humanist" attack on him, neglecting the criticisms of his fellow creationists and other critics having no humanist connections.
March 30, 1985.
Stephen Jay Gould, Harvard professor of geology and codeveloper of the theory of punctuated equilibrium, accepted my invitation to visit the sites of the Glen Rose mantrack claims. We toured the ledge in Dinosaur Valley State Park, the McFall site, and the Creation Evidences Museum. Accompanying us were Gayle Golden, James Cunliffe, and Clifton Barr. Concerning the features on the sites not covered by silt and mud, Gould was amazed how so little and so poor evidence could be the source of so much excitement among creationists. He also emphasized how telling it was that evidence of such alleged importance was in no way protected or properly documented.
Despite attempts to contact him, Baugh was not available to meet Gould at the creationist museum. Again the Summers family made it possible for our group to view the exhibits close up. Notably absent was the alleged Cretaceous trilobite. (A simple test to see if the fossil was actually limestone or dolomiteusing a drop of weak hydrochloric acid and observing the resulting effervescencehad been proposed by Troy L. Pewe, professor of geology at Arizona State University, in the January/February 1985 issue of Creation/Evolution Newsletter [Pewe, 1985]. The acid test would help determine if the trilobite was accidentally dropped or was deliberately planted or "salted" in the Paluxy limestone. Paluxy limestone is 100 million years old, while no trilobite fossils occur in deposits younger than about 225 million years.) James Cunliffe and I also noted that Baugh's museum seemed to be in a state of neglect compared to when we had seen it about seven weeks before. This stood in stark contrast to Baugh's multimillion-dollar plans for further phases of his museum (Golden, 1985) and the considerable material support he is supposed to be receiving (Lang, 1985).
June 1, 1985.
Warm Langston, paleontologist from the University of Texas at Austin, asked me to guide a tour of the Dallas Geological Society to the "mantrack" sites as part of the group's field trip. After a look at the park ledge tracks, the entire two busloads making up the group disembarked at the McFall site, where, to our surprise, Baugh was working with a new crew. (Through the years, the turnover among his helpers has been phenomenal!) They were removing limestone slabs atop marl and the lower limestone layer, trying to find new tracks.
Baugh made sure that we could hear him caution his group about not altering with their grubbing hoes the limestone beneath the limey clay marl they were removing. (A growing number of Baugh's critics, including Laurie Godfrey, John Cole, Schafersman, West, and I, had cited how the marl was not easily distinguished from the underlying limestone, which, in turn, could be chipped by careless wielding of tools.) As Baugh moved away from his group to meet Langston, I heard one of the work crew ask another what marl was, indicating that Baugh's scientific jargon was for our benefit only.
The geological group gathered within earshot of Baugh's crew, where Langston and I talked about the site through a hand-held amplified speaker. Thus did Baugh hear me criticize his claims. In response, he asked for "equal time." When granted it, he told the group of his "mantracks" whose traces have since disappeared; he waffled on calling the cavity before all of us (FIGURE 11 in Godfrey, 1985) his best and first "mantrack." I asked him, after he had finished, what had happened to the plaque that used to be attached to a nearby limestone slab identifying the "Wilsonian strata" and "Humanus Bauanthropus." He said Clifford Wilson took it for a "souvenir."
Later, after the tour group had left, the Reverend Baugh told me that his dinosaur fossil had been radiocarbon dated ("washed in two solutions," as he put it) at thirty-nine thousand to forty thousand years. Aside from the fact that one does not use carbon dating to determine the age of dinosaur fossils, Baugh did not blink at the discrepancy between this age and his own ten-thousand-year figure for the creation of the earth. Furthermore, he did not show the same willingness to radiocarbon date the wooden handle of his hammer-in-stone. Nonetheless, I urged him to try and publish these datings, and he indicated that he would.
July 15, 1985.
Creation/Evolution XV was released, completely devoted to the research of Godfrey, Cole, Schafersman, and Hastings on the Paluxy River "mantracks." Carl Baugh at this time announced his plans to dig again in late July.
July 31, 1985.
In response of issue XV of Creation/Evolution, Mary Ann Krebs of the Waco Tribune-Herald interviewed separately both Baugh and me in Glen Rose (Krebs, 1985). However, Baugh and I did converse briefly at the McFall site, at which time Baugh was not anxious to talk with me. He announced that he had just found "a headcrest bone" at the same site upriver where he had previously found the dinosaur bones still stored at his museum. However, when I checked this "headcrest" at the bone site later on that afternoon, the fossilized specimen was so featureless that any identification was difficult at best, though it did have the appearance of the genuine bones found nearby.
Baugh's museum had changed its housing, the contents having been transferred from the quaint little cabin to a quonset hut.
August 15-20, 1985.
Glen Kuban and I spent several days cleaning and mapping the eight to ten dinosaur trails at the McFall site that had been exposed by Baugh's work since 1982. We were, on different days, joined by students Brian Sargent and Tim Smith, as well as by Clifton Barr. As we looked at the trails as whole entities, the pattern of so many of the "mantracks" consistently appearing as depressions made by some appendage (tail or forelimb) became very notable. With independent sets of data, Kuban and I hoped our work would contrast with the lack of such documentation on Baugh's part. At one point during his visit, Kuban asked Baugh to identify on Kuban's McFall site maps the locations of alleged mantracks. Baugh was unable to do this consistent with his previous claims. Baugh said that he had a stack of maps back in Missouri, that they were not with him in Texas. Significant to years of observation of the McFall site was the fact that dinosaur prints exposed in 1982 were still clearly identifiable, although somewhat eroded. The dinosaurian features seemed more resistant to erosion than the quickly disappearing "human" features in friable, clayey fill.
The Taylor site just downriver was not as "high and dry" as a year previous, but many of the Taylor trail prints were still clearly visible, claw-shaped discolorations and all, in very shallow and receding water. Also nicely exposed in Dinosaur Valley State Park by the very low water level were the excellent and rare sauropod tracks near the park ledge site first made famous by Roland T. Bird. I videotaped for the first time the West site, where many elongate dinosaur prints, similar to those found at the Taylor site and a few at the McFall site, abound. A depression pattern alongside a dinosaur trail was also found, similar to the "mantracks" at the McFall site.
During our August work together, Kuban began wondering whether representatives from the ICR might come and look at the Taylor site if they knew the essential content of his planned monograph that would detail our findings. He had previously issued invitations to John Morris, all of which had been declined. Kuban telephoned Morris directly, inviting him once again to come to the Paluxy while we were on site, but again Morris declined. When Kuban then suggested to me that he write a letter to Morris, outlining the evidence that would go into the monograph, I encouraged him to do so.
August 26, 1985.
I met and guided a group from the geology department of the University of Alabama a, t Birmingham, which included both students and faculty. Scott Brande of the department had previously made the arrangements with me. After we toured many of the dinosaur and "mantrack" sites in the state park and at the McFall and Taylor sites, Baugh arrived at the McFall site with his own group to guide. I was invited to any future excavations Baugh would do. He seemed confident that there would be more, despite evidence that his financial support was waning.
September 5, 1985.
Glen Kuban sent John Morris a lengthy and detailed letter, complete with photographs, setting forth the evidence for dinosaurian origin of the Taylor site trackways. Kuban had consulted me previously via a number of phone calls concerning the content of this letter. We were both eager that it have a beneficial effect, and it was carefully prepared with that in mind. Copies of this letter were sent to Henry Morris, Duane Gish, Steve Austin, and Harold Slusher, all members of the ICR staff.
The response to this letter was pleasantly rapid. The ICR delegated John Morris to be its representative, and Morris agreed to meet Kuban in early October in Glen Rose. Morris contacted Marian and Paul Taylor (widow and son, respectively, of Stanley Taylor of Films for Christ) and invited them along. But Morris was not anxious to meet me, Steven Schafersman, or other members of Laurie Godfrey's team (the "Raiders of the Lost Tracks," as we had called ourselves) who had so recently published refutations of the "mantrack" claims in Creation/Evolution. So, in the interest of getting for Kuban a more open response from Morris, I agreed not to meet with the visiting creationists, even though I was going to be in Glen Rose at the appointed time anyway, meeting with Indiana paleontologist Dr. James Farlow and Steven Schafersman.
October 3, 1985.
Creationists John Morris, Marian and Paul Taylor, Tom Henderson, and Marvin Hermannall of whom had aided the late Stanley Taylor in his work uncovering the Taylor sitemet Glen Kuban in Glen Rose. Together they visited the Taylor site several times and discussed the evidence at length. According to Kuban, all these visitors seemed astounded at what they saw. Taylor suggested taking Footprints in Stone out of circulation, but John Morris seemed more defensive about the positions in his book, especially as Kuban kept reminding him of the evidence Morris had just seen. Eventually, Morris conceded some points to Kuban, stopping short of making definite statements about dinosaurian origins of trails other than the Taylor trail and short of abandoning erroneous "mantrack" claims of the past. Paul Taylor seemed more willing to accept the consequences of what they were seeing. Particularly vexing to the creationists were the faint but visible color distinctions Kuban pointed out in photographs taken when the Taylor film was in production-distinctions that revealed the dinosaurian nature of tracks at the Taylor site as photographed back in the 1970s.
Attempts were made by Morris to question anything that could allow the creationists to deny what was before their eyes. In response, Kuban patiently but firmly confronted them with the evidence time and again and allowed them to discover for themselves that he was right. The Turnage tracks were uncovered to show a dismayed Morris their tridactyl depressions. By November, all the creationists present agreed at least that the Taylor trail had been made by a dinosaur. Kuban asked Morris for a statement from the ICR to accompany Kuban's forthcoming monograph, a request to which Morris seemed to respond favorably.
October 4, 1985.
James Farlow and Steven Schafersman visited the Taylor site with Kuban and me as their guides. Kuban and I had been explaining to them for some time the new insights about dinosaur locomotion that the Taylor site seemed to bring to light. To us, the Taylor, II-DW, and Giant Run trails suggested that the dinosaurs who made them walked not only on their toes (digitigrade) but also dropped down on their metatarsals (plantigrade) with the equivalent of their "heels" touching the lime mud. James Farlow had searched the literature on dinosaur trails and found that elongate dinosaur tracks, such as are common at the Taylor site, were not as rare as he, Kuban, and I had originally assumed. I had even found a short dinosaur trail just downriver from the Taylor site containing both plantigrade and digitigrade depressions without color distinctions. Kuban had previously documented many elongate dinosaur tracks at the West site. Some long and narrow dinosaur tracks, with shallow but distinct tridactyl toe depressions, exposed by Baugh's work at the McFall site, resembled the elongate tracks of the Taylor site. But only when Farlow and Schafersman saw the Taylor site for themselves, in shallow water, did they agree completely with a metatarsal explanation and confirm the plausibility of the plantigrade hypothesis. Farlow did, however, suggest that the phenomenon could possibly be the result of aberrant walking, but the frequency of the phenomenon makes this hypothesis less plausible. Schafersman expressed reservations about the idea that all the elongate dinosaurian tracks in the Paluxy River area might be explained by our hypothesis. There may be other causes for similar phenomena on some of the other sites.
October 14, 1985.
I took small samples of rock with color distinctions from the II-DW and "R" trails at the Taylor site. These I later sent to Jim Farlow and Warm Langston for lab analysis.
October 25-27, 1985.
Glen Kuban was back in Glen Rose for the Fossilmania fossil show. Al West also attended. The two independently noticed trilobite specimens remarkably like the specimen claimed by Carl Baugh to be from Glen Rose limestone. These specimens were found in Niagaran limestone in the Joliet formation near Grafton, Illinois, being Silurian in age (430 to 395 million years before the present) and distinctive from other trilobite fossils in that they were found in dolomite. This distinction, making identification very easy (Pewe had identified Baugh's specimen from a photograph), coupled with the obvious similarities between the Fossilmania specimens and Baugh's fossil, suggested the same origin for all these trilobites and ruled out the possibility of any being from Glen Rose limestone.
Kuban bought one of the Fossilmania specimens, and I tried Pewe's suggested "acid test" on it for corroborative purposes. Just as Pewe had described, weak hydrochloric acid hardly bubbled on the surface of the trilobite specimen's dolomite, whereas the same acid produced brisk effervescence on one of my fossil specimens of Glen Rose limestone.
"Foreign" fossils, such as the Fossilmania trilobites, have been readily available to Glen Rose residents and visitors for years through fossil shows. That such a specimen was misplaced along the Paluxy riverbed or purposely "salted" there seems highly probable and may account for its eventual fall into Baugh's hands.
November 1-3, 1985.
During a visit to the Taylor site, Kuban was surprised to find Morris and Henderson there. They told him they had come for "another look," and Kuban accompanied them back to their motel as rainfall increased. It turned out that Paul Taylor was also there at the motel, sick with the flu.
On November 2, Kuban, Morris, Henderson, and Taylor returned to the Taylor site, this time with a glass aquarium Morris had to aid in "taking cores" of the color distinctions. They were joined by Billy Caldwell and others. Kuban suggested that they use the aquarium to see more directly the Ryals, Giant Run, and Turnage tracks which were under water. This worked well, and the tridactyl nature of the tracks was made visible to everyone.
Morris, during later phone calls, suggested the possibility that the color distinctions had been painted or dyed on by human activity. Kuban promptly reminded him that the entire site had been under water for a year, that there are more than a hundred color distinctions on the site arranged in dinosaurian dimensions and proportions, with more appearing as time goes on, that many of the color distinctions had fissures at their borders apparently due to differential thermal expansion and contraction, that the color distinctions reached well below the limestone surface on many tracks, and that the phenomenon was not limited to the Taylor site alone. (Yet, despite these points, Morris suggested his painting or dying hypothesis in his ICR Impact article of January 1986.)
During Kuban's discussions with the creationists, he explored the authenticity of the Osborn-Caldwell print. This is the "mantrack" cast that Carl Baugh had metal casts made from for use as premiums to be given to those who donated one hundred dollars or more to the Louisiana Creation Legal Defense Fund or to his Creation Evidences Museum. Accompanying each metal cast was a parchment certificate of authenticity, stating that this "human footprint" was "originally excavated by Bill Osborn and verified by certified geologist Billy Caldwell, M.A., in the same rock stratum with dinosaur tracks."
During her early October visit, Marian Taylor had told Kuban that the Taylors had purchased Caldwell's cast in Glen Rose in the 1960s and that she knew it to be from a carving. She had also expressed displeasure about Baugh's current false claims about it. Kuban then followed up on this, checking with Grover C. Gibbs, Jr., in Glen Rose (owner of the Gibbs track) who was supposedly present at the time the original print was found. Gibbs could not provide data to substantiate Baugh's statements. Now Caldwell told Kuban that he had never seen the print in the riverbed but only in the back of Osborne's truck. Also, Jacob McFall, when asked, said that the print was a carving done by one of the Adams brothers (who had also carved the original Gibbs track) back during the Depression.
Mid to late November 1985.
John McKay, a creationist from Australia who was visiting the United States, arrived at the Taylor site to take core samples. He was accompanied by Paul Taylor.
Later, during conversations with Kuban, Morris mentioned that the ICR staff had met, along with Paul Taylor, near San Diego to discuss how to respond to what Morris and Taylor had seen. Morris had stated earlier on the phone to Kuban that he wanted to recommend that the ICR publicly admit that all the Taylor site tracks were made by dinosaurs and "take their lumps." But the meeting apparently resulted in something different, as evidenced by the statements which cautiously declared that the Taylor trail was dinosaurian but that other trails on the site were merely "in doubt" (Taylor, 1985; Morris, 1986). A later statement appearing in the March 1986 issue of Creation: Ex Nihilo, an Australian publication, was even less forthright, speaking of the color distinctions (referred to as stains by creationists) as being of "unknown significance" and saying that "further research" would be necessary to explain the occurrence (Snelling, 1986).
March 23, 1986.
My wife and I visited a few of the "mantrack" areas. At the McFall site, we noticed that all of the alleged human footprints were marked with red spray paint while all of the acknowledged dinosaur tracks were similarly marked with blue. All over the site, red and blue parenthesis set off the depressions. The only ones missed were the few the creationists seemed to have overlooked. My wife commented that this work gave the area the general appearance of having been-victimized by vandals. One who didn't know better would think this was the work of teenage pranksters defacing property.
When we passed by Baugh's museum, we noticed that the cabin had been removed from the property by Al West, its owner, but that the shed remained. Kuban later reported that the shed was empty, Baugh having removed the contents of the museum to his mobile home.
This covers the tracking of those incredible creationists to the present. Has the pursuit been worth it? In terms of what it has taught us about creationist motivations, methods, and rationalizations, it has been invaluable.
As Stephen Jay Gould noted to me, the Paluxy River excavations represent "one of the few positive pieces of creation research that one can actually view." Creationist explorations of the area have served as a showcase for their methods. The world has had the chance to watch "scientific" creationists in action, and the picture that has emerged is more revealing than anything one can find in their books or from their platform presentations.
In terms of gathered data, scientific documentation, accuracy, and corroboration with other sources, the results of creationists such as Burdick, Taylor, Fields, Morris, and Baugh can hardly compare with those of scientists such as Bird, Langston, Kuban, Farlow, and the "Raiders." There is so much more available documentation by scientific investigators (including photos, maps, and videotapes) than there is by creationist investigators (who for years offered only a largely misleading film and credulous book). The respect for evidence and its preservation by the creationists has been incredibly limitedtheir discoveries apparently directed toward political and religious ends instead of being ends in themselves. This has led to a blatant disregard of the truth, with creationists sidestepping the kind of "full disclosure" that they demand from evolutionary scientists.
It is a good sign that creationists have made some admissions and taken at least one Paluxy film off the market. But the latest ICR catalog, mailed with the April 1986 Acts and Facts, still lists Morris' book for sale, though "with updated inserts reflecting the latest data and re-evaluations." (Mine came with a copy of Morris' recent Impact article inside.) This tells me that "scientific" creationists are still compromising a full commitment to science.
Godfrey, Laurie R. 1985. "Foot Notes of an Anatomist." Creation/Evolution, issue XV, pp. 16-36.
Golden, Gayle. February 25, 1985. "Glen Rose: Prehistoric Site Now a Scientific Battleground." The Dallas Morning News, pp. D6-7.
Hastings, Ronnie J. 1985. "Tracking Those Incredible Creationists." Creation/Evolution, issue XV, pp. 5-15.
Krebs, Mary Ann. August 11, 1985. "Theologian Says Man, Dinosaur Walked Together," Waco Tribune-Herald, p. 1; continued on p. 6A as "Creationist, Evolutionist Differ on Glen Rose Tracks."
Lang, Walter. May 1985. Letter from the Genesis Institute, Richfield, MN.
Morris, John. 1986. "The Paluxy River Mystery." Impact, 151 (Institute for Creation Research).
Pewe, Troy L. January/February 1985. "Prize for Trilobite in Cretaceous Not Yet Earned." Letter in Creation/Evolution Newsletter, 5:1:15.
Snelling, Andrew. March 1986. "Paluxy Controversy Continues," with editorial note, in Creation: Ex Nihilo, p. 37.
Taylor, Paul S. 1985. "Notice Regarding the Motion Picture Footprints in Stone" (Mesa, AZ: Films for Christ Association), Form N-6, dated December 4, 1985, revised December 5, 1985.
Taylor, Stanley E. 1972. Footprints in Stone. A film by Films for Christ Association, Elmwood, IL.