Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Dinosaur Adventure part 4. A Creationist Misadventure

I usually post once a week but I want to fit five "dinosaur adventures" into October.

While Glen Kuban, Mike O’Brien, Brian Miles, and I worked on the dinosaur footprints in the bed of the Paluxy River on September 24, we answered many questions from park visitors about the footrpints. Nearly everyone had come with an attitude of fascination about the footprints and a desire to learn about them.

Then along came a creationist couple, apparent followers of Carl Baugh, the weird preacher about whom I wrote previously. They started talking to Glen, since it was clear from the work that he was doing that he was no mere tourist. (What follows is based upon a few observations I made; I was helping Mike most of the time.) This couple made a series of strange statements (even by creationist standards). Glen, who has been clocked at three hundred words per minute, was flooding them with information to demonstrate why they were wrong, both scientifically and theologically. I wanted to tell Glen that no amount of information would change their minds, and he might as well come back and continue working with us. But Glen’s circuit had been closed.

The first strange statement was that the woman said one of the footprints in the riverbed had fit her foot perfectly, and that therefore it had to be a human footprint. This is Carl Baugh’s gospel: humans and dinosaurs lived at the same time and left their footprints in the mud that is now the Paluxy River bed. Glen gave her a few hundred words of rebuttal. What I would have said is, “Listen, lady, human feet come in lots of different sizes. If that footprint fit your foot exactly, then it must have been your footprint. These deposits are 110 million years old. Golly, lady, you don’t look a day over 50 million.”

Then the woman said that the dinosaurs could not have existed before the Fall of Adam, because they would have died before the Fall, and the Bible says there was no death before the Fall, and that Jesus’ sacrifice would have meant nothing at all if any of these dinosaurs had died before Adam. Glen gave her a few hundred words of rebuttal. What I would have said is, “Listen, lady, it’s news to me that Jesus came to Earth to save dinosaurs. Do they have souls? Can you find this in the Bible?”

The woman then said that Glen had been brainwashed throughout his entire life by evolution. Glen explained, in no more than three hundred words, that he used to believe the same thing she did—he had been a creationist who believed that there were human footprints mixed in with the dinosaur prints. He had changed his mind about creationism because he came here in 1980—and has been coming ever since—to actually study the footprints.

The woman then asked if Glen was a Christian. Glen said yes. The woman disagreed with him. (Why did she ask him, then?)

The woman’s husband finally felt he had to intervene. He told Glen something like this (I here take some literary license): “My wife politely explained to you that unless there are human footprints in with the dinosaur footprints in this riverbed, then the entire Bible is wrong, all of Christianity is a lie, and Jesus should never have bothered to come to Earth. My wife here politely told you that she, not you, has the prerogative of determining whether or not you believe in Jesus. My wife POLITELY told you that if you disagree with a single word that she says, that you will burn in hell forever. So why are you talking so fast, which sounds to me like you are upset?” Glen gave him a few hundred words of rebuttal. I would have said, “Well, it appears that when your wife reads the Bible, her brain is incapable of making any errors. She must be personally inerrant. Maybe we should all worship her.” (Besides, just because Glen talks fast does not mean he is upset. Oh, did I say that already?)

Second thought, maybe it’s fortunate that I was not the one talking to the woman.

As I recall, the conversation ended when Mike called Glen over to help. We had a lot of work to do and not many hours of daylight remaining, facts that Mike was continually aware of. We were already dismantling the photographic apparatus so that we could move to another site.

Actually, it turns out Glen was a little upset, not at the couple’s creationist beliefs, but at their arrogance: they assumed that they knew everything about the Bible and about science, without having seriously studied either one. Glen had asked the woman some questions about Biblical passages, which she ignored.

Interestingly, the person who should have been talking to the creationist couple was Brian. He did not go into detail, but I gather that he is a conservative Baptist. His church had hosted Carl Baugh one time, something that Brian considered a big mistake. Brian, as a petroleum geologist, knows perfectly well that the fossils have a millions-of-years evolutionary order. You can use the fossils to determine the relative ages of rock layers and this knowledge can help you find oil and gas. But the woman would probably have told him that he, also, was not a Christian.

It was time for us to go to another track site. Mike hoisted his T-pole onto his shoulder and said, “Well, I will just bear my cross,” as he walked back along the Via Dolorosa of dinosaur tracks toward his van. To be continued.

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