Apparently there is solid evidence that humans and Dinosaurs were around at the same time. We will dive into this claim in a moment, but first, I’ll explain why this has popped up on my radar.
I was contacted recently by somebody. The individual will remain nameless in order to protect the utterly clueless. A paraphrase of what was sent to me was basically this – Here is a very long list of stuff that proves that my specific religious beliefs are all true. I’d like to send all of this to you, are you interested?
Nestled amongst this long long list was this …
…VIDEOS 1. Footprints in Stone – Dino tracks with human prints together. Glen Rose, Texas. Outstanding video with some older footage included. 34 min long 2. Dr. Carl Baugh (who is one of the scientists in Footprints in Stone) presents his artifacts from the Creation Evidence Museum. He has a human foot print stepping on a a Pterodactyl track (the Willet print), a dinosaur stepping into and on a human footprint (the Delk print), a sandal print with trilobites (the Meister print), as well as other artifacts…
“Ah“, I think, “This all sounds familiar, I remember this stuff from my teenage evangelical days“.
There was even a chick tract for this one.
Is there anybody out there who remembers those?
To be precise, it was this one called “There Go the Dinosaurs” …
I do honestly wish that I’d kept the ones I had, they were a real hoot. I should perhaps make a note to pen something about Chick tracts another day.
For this posting let’s focus on the claim that Dinosaur and human tracks have been found together and that this is evidence that they co-existed.
What is the actual truth here, where does this “evidence” lead us?
(There is a reason that I have placed the air quotes around the word “evidence”)
Let’s dive in and see.
The Paluxy River Tracks
The Paluxy River within Texas is well-known amongst creationists because this is the location of the famous tracks that are claimed to show both dinosaur and also human footprints together.
The origin of it all dates back to the initial discovery by a local schoolboy (Alton Truman Matthews). His teacher recognised the tracks as dinosaur. This led to a scientific investigation in the 1930’s.
There were also indistinct and elongated tracks that were called by locals “man-tracks”. Starting in about 1939 creationists latched on to those as “proof” that giant humans had lived at the same time as the dinosaurs. Yes, “Giant Humans”, because there was no way these could have been made by normal humans.
The modern myth of human and dinosaur tracks existing here was popularised within a short 1970’s film, “Footprints in Stone“, by Stanley Taylor.
To illustrate what that film is like I have this story about it.
Somebody decided to show it to a room full of geologists, biologists, and anthropologists at a university roughly about a decade ago. Here is what happened …
It became quickly apparent that no one was impressed. One physical anthropologist left halfway through the film; he later remarked that he found the movie to be terribly uninteresting and unconvincing. “If that’s the best those creationists can do,” he grumbled, “we needn’t worry about their proselytizing efforts at all.” Several of the students could not contain themselves from laughing derisively at the movie. One commented, “Why, even the filming techniques were amateurish.” There was even a creationist in the audience who was left with the same doubtful opinion of the Paluxy “human” footprints. She even advised creationist Al Beeber to remove from the lecture-slide show on “scientific creationism,” which he presented to our campus a month later, the slides on the Paluxy River “dinomen” on the grounds that the evidence was “no good.”
What Actually explains these supposedly “Human” Tracks?
It all comes down to a combination of these …
- Pure fakery
- Scour marks eroded by the river
- Other tracks that are not human, but simply “interpreted” by those desperate for them to be human prints
Yes, some popular examples are pure fakes that were carved during the great depression by locals as a means to earn some cash. As laid out within a paper by the National Center for Science Education titled “Paluxy Man — The Creationist Piltdown“, they quote a creationist who admits there was indeed fakery …
Skeptics have claimed that the prints are carvings, not real prints at all. Unfortunately, this charge has some basis; in fact, several enterprising Texans from Glen Rose did make their living during the Great Depression by digging out the best tracks and selling them. The going price ranged from ten dollars to twenty-five dollars, and the dinosaur tracks were much more in demand than the man tracks. Soon, however, the best tracks were gone, and a few men began to carve new tracks (especially dinosaur tracks) out of any limestone block available.
That same creationist goes on to claim that he also has real examples. But the authors of the NCSE paper reject that claim and explain …
John D. Morris’s “genuine” prints are not very impressive. Two series of elongated tracks are often considered to be human, but Neufeld points out that some of the tracks in these series are the eroded remnants of three-toed dinosaur prints; since the dinosaur placed most of its weight on its middle toe, the side toes of the tracks are a little shallower and erode away more easily, yet some of the tracks in these series retain traces of the side toes. The rest are simply erosional marks in eroded undulating rock, most of which do not appear, in any photos, to have anything around them that resembles squish marks.
Do we have anything credible at all?
Short summary: Nope.
Slightly longer version: Various creationists claim that the “trained subject matter experts” can’t find the human footprints because they have to be carefully wetted or painted with oil to make them visible. One small flaw is this observation by a geologist …
Often, in order to contrast the tracks with the surrounding rocks for photographic purposes, they [the tracks] have been painted with oil. The tracks appear to have soaked up some of the oil and now contrast with the matrix even without treatment. In my opinion, these footprints are not tracks at all but represent random erosion marks in the surface of the limestone plate. The surrounding surface is covered with erosional marks of almost every imaginable shape. Individuals have reported visualizing the tracks of practically any mammal species on this surface. . . . It is only with a great deal of imagination that a bipedal trackway can be seen at all.
The essence of it all is that these tracks are basically incandescent vapours and translucent surfaces. (That’s smoke and mirrors to you and me).
Like many similar religious claims, this one reaches a balance such that there is just enough for those of faith to embrace it as truth, but it also lacks anything of any actual substance and so the claim rapidly collapses if you submit it to any meaningful critical scrutiny.
Meanwhile, I have “Evidence”
The “Evidence” provided to me via email all leans upon details provided by a “Dr” Carl Baugh and an image of a human and dinosaur print together.
The “Dr” is in Air Quotes because Carl Baugh has no recognised training, only certificates churned out by a couple of unaccredited theology schools. What this guy does is so bad that other creationists label him as deceptive. Even Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis, the guy who has the giant Noah’s Ark in Kentucky, and also believes that dinosaurs and humans co-existed, openly criticises Carl Baugh and labels him untrustworthy.
As for Carl’s “Evidence”, the guy who reached out to me sent an image of the infamous Delk print. Basically this …
It looks impressive. Imagery such as the above is sufficient to convince some that this is credible.
One ever so small problem is this – it is a very obvious fake.
The human toe is too deep and also too short. The dinosaur print has no pad impression and also cuts through several rock layers, rather than compressing them. That is only possible if that had been cut by hand. There is also no displacement of sediment from either track. You need not doubt the conclusion – this has been manufactured.
Why did people create such forgeries?
George Adams is a local who was doing this in the 1930’s. His granddaughter, Zana Douglas, confirms this. It was the great depression, he was a really good sculptor, and so he, along with others, churned out stuff like this to earn some desperately needed income.
One Last Thought
For the folks that believe, such “evidence” is good enough because it resonates at an emotional level and confirms their deeply held religious identity. Any and every bit of an evidence-based rebuttal is simply wrong and perhaps even deemed to be Satanic.
Given the politics we have all seen over the last few years, I guess we can all grasp that people really will believe crazy things. If you truly need to believe that the Flintstones is a documentary, then you will never be bothered by little inconvenient things such as facts or for that matter, reality.
So did humans and dinosaurs live together?
Nope, they practised social distancing and stayed about 60 million years apart from each other.
- Wikipedia – Paluxy River
- Wikipedia – Carl Baugh
- National Center for Science Education – Paluxy Man — The Creationist Piltdown
- National Center for Science Education – An Analysis of the Creationist Film, Footprints in Stone