Following the wrong footprints

I’ve been attending a seminar presented by a smaller young-Earth creationist organization. I respect the speakers for their commitment to the inerrancy of Scriptures, and their proclamation of the gospel. I share their trust in the Bible, and my heart is lifted any time I hear Christ proclaimed as God’s sacrifice to take away our sins; the only way to God.

The first seminar was a good presentation of design in the living world and how it points to God. Whether one buys into intelligent design or not (I mostly do), the marvels of creation should never fail to amaze us.

Last night, I attended the session on “Dinosaurs and the Flood.” Most of it was what I expected, having read a lot of young-Earth creationist literature. Dinosaurs, of course, are interesting to people of all ages, and there were a lot of young children in attendance; no doubt they were fascinated to be able to touch the fossils on display out in the hallway.

The promotional flyer for the weekend had a quote: “Evolution is the number one reason students give me for rejecting the Gospel” That may be true. There is a naturalistic philosophy that many attach to evolution that is in opposition to the Gospel; this is clear in the bitter arguments of the “new atheists.” I would contend that this naturalistic philosophy is not a necessary part of evolution. I would like to counter with this: “Young-Earth Creationism is the number one reason scientists give for rejecting the Gospel.” I haven’t taken a survey, but this statement might not be too far from the truth.

I’ll give an example.

I was surprised at the seminar when the speaker brought up some “evidences” for dinosaurs and humans coexisting that have been repudiated by the two major young-Earth creationist organizations. Back in the 1970s and early 1980s, one of the prominent arguments for Flood geology—the idea that Noah’s Flood was responsible for most of the geologic column—was the Paluxy River footprints. These are dinosaur footprints preserved in the Cretaceous Glen Rose formation in Texas, not too far from Fort Worth. Creationists claimed that there were fossilized human tracks in the rocks as well, and entire books and movies were made about these trace fossils. The evidence against this, however, was so overwhelming that the Institute for Creation Research backed away from the claim in the mid 1980s. All of the “human” footprints turned out to be either dinosaur footprints or frauds (or ambiguous, some would say). This is still the position of ICR, and it is also the position of the other large U.S. young-Earth creationist organization, Answers in Genesis. AiG lists the Paluxy River tracks on their “Arguments we think creationists should NOT use” page.

To use these arguments will only drive scientifically-minded people away from the Gospel, not draw them to it.

I asked the speaker about why he used the Paluxy tracks in his talk, and he said that he talked to a forensic scientist who thinks some of these really are human. If this is true, then why do ICR and AiG still reject the “evidence?” And how much does this forensic scientist know about geology? Probably not much.

I am concerned about two things:

  • First, I am concerned with how this sort of presentation affects our young people: the teens in the crowd, and the little kids who were in the hallway touching the fossils. If they are taught that the Bible teaches that dinosaurs and humans coexisted, and that these tracks are proof (and therefore that the tracks are proof that the Bible is true) then what will happen when they go off to college and find out that it just isn’t so? I fear that our youth are being set up for a fall.
  • Second, presentation of material like this will drive scientists away from Christ needlessly. Let it be the Gospel that is foolish (1 Cor 3:19), not our arguments.

In a future post, I’ll write about how footprints in stone—whether dinosaur, human, or any other type of terrestrial creature—don’t fit into a young-Earth creationist Flood geology scenario anyways.

Grace and Peace

Image: Paluxy River dinosaur footprints, Wikipedia: Paluxy River, photographer: Robert Nunnally

10 thoughts on “Following the wrong footprints

  1. windar 007

    I have been speaking in favor of YEC for a # of years and have never brought up the man/dinosaur footprints in the PR.
    What I have brought up is good scientific evidence in favor of YEC, such as Petford, et al wrting in the Christian-bashing publication Nature (v 408): “But since the early 1990s, research into the origin of granite has shifted away from geochemistry towards understanding the underlying physical processes involved. As a result, dynamic models that operate on timescales of months to centuries are replacing the once-prevailing view of granitic magma production as a slow, equilibrium process that requires millions of years for completion.” I’ll take this quote over the PR footprints any day.
    There are other minor evidences for a young earth such as the soft dino tissue discovered in the Hell Creek formation a few yrs back. I’ll take elastic T. rex blood vessels over dino/man footprints any day.
    The evidence continues to build for a young earth/world-wide Flood.


  2. geochristian

    Windar 007:

    Thanks for your comment, and thanks for not using the Paluxy River tracks in your YEC arguments.

    I don’t think what Petford says about granitic rocks really helps you out. The movement has been towards taking a closer look at field evidence for the emplacement, crystallization, and cooling of granitic bodies. The field evidence points to large batholiths, such as the Sierra Nevada batholith, being formed by the emplacement of hundreds or thousands of smaller bodies in a sequence, each one being mostly crystallized before the next one intrudes.

    Even with heat being removed by circulating hydrothermal fluids around the pluton, mid-sized plutons should still take hundreds of thousands of years to cool. Remember that these are in the 750 to 1000 degrees Celsius range when they begin to crystallize, and are not at the surface where cooling would be at a higher rate. If something like the Sierra Nevada batholith were emplaced only 4500 years ago, it would still be largely molten.

    He wasn’t, I don’t think, suggesting that we ignore geochemistry when it comes to the study of granitoid plutons.

    Or consider the cooling rates of something like the Columbia River Basalts in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. These are lava flows that lie stratigraphically near the top, so they would have been late-flood or post-flood in the YEC models. They are over 1000 m thick, and show plenty of evidence of that they were not produced in one massive event. Each major flow shows evidence of forming, cooling, and then a long period of time before the next eruption.

    Sorry, I don’t think igneous rocks help any more than the Paluxy River footprints.

    We’re working towards a common goal—the proclamation of Jesus Christ.

    Grace and Peace


  3. windar 007

    Thanks for this, but I have to wonder if Petford et al would agree with your explanation. I tell my audiences that many assumptions are used to proclaim a 4.6/4.5 billion year old earth and science doesn’t support this. For example, Faint Young Sun, the Sun is about 25% less luminous 3.8 billion years ago in the Archaean of the Precambrian. The Sun would be about 30% less luminous “4.5 billion years ago”. In stellar evolution theory, this is called the ZAMS Sun. The ZAMS Sun has a rotation period near its equator about 2.7 days compared to the present rotation of 25.38 days. Studies of young stars like EK Draconis (HD 129333) are interpreted as similar to the early Sun, thus the ZAMS Sun rotated rapidly too according to stellar evolution theory. HD 129333 is considered about 7E+7 years old on the H-R diagram so it has completed < 1 Galactic revolution. Using the evolution model age for the Sun (e.g. 4.5E+9 years old), it has completed 19-20 Galactic revolutions.
    Many assumptions are used in stellar evolution theory models for the ZAMS Sun or early Precambrian Sun.
    Lifetime of short-period comets (orbital period < 200 years), e.g. Halley. Comet 73P or Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 had an orbital period of 5.35 years. Discovered May 2, 1930, the Hubble telescope recorded its break-up in April 2006, the comet disintegrated. This comet lasted 320E+6 revolutions, something that is not going to happen with all the mass loss of comets, especially at perihelion passages.



  4. geochristian

    Windar 007:

    I’m not an astronomer, so I won’t do a quick answer on the ZAMS sun part of your comment. Some day I might look into it.

    I do know quite a bit more about solar system astronomy, as it relates more closely to the Earth. I think the existence of short-period comets says nothing one way or another about the age of the solar system. Certainly short-period comets are no problem in a YEC model, but I don’t think they are much of a problem if the solar system is 4.6 billion years old either. Certainly, a comet like Halley’s could not survive millions of trips through the inner solar system, losing a bit of its mass on each journey. But if the Oort cloud is really out there, then there is an almost unlimited source of fresh comets. (I know, we’ve never seen the Oort cloud).

    Regarding Petford, the article you referred to is not online, but here’s the abstract:

    “The origin of granites was once a question solely for petrologists and geochemists. But in recent years a consensus has emerged that recognizes the essential role of deformation in the segregation, transport and emplacement of silica-rich melts in the continental crust. Accepted petrological models are being questioned, either because they require unrealistic rheological behaviours of rocks and magmas, or because they do not satisfactorily explain the available structural or geophysical data. Provided flow is continuous, mechanical considerations suggest that—far from being geologically sluggish—granite magmatism is a rapid, dynamic process operating at timescales of 100,000 years, irrespective of tectonic setting.”

    Petland, without a doubt, is not suggesting that something like the Idaho Batholith or Coast Range Batholith formed in less than 100,000 years. Individual intrusion events (what he is probably writing about in the Nature article you referred to) might be shorter-scale than were once envisioned, but large batholiths are made up of many individual intrusions, formed successively. Field evidence indicates that in general each one had crystallized before the next one intruded.

    Grace and Peace


  5. windar 007

    OK, I have carefully read what you said & what Petford, et al said and I believe/take at face value what he stated, “As a result, dynamic models that operate on timescales of months to centuries are replacing the once-prevailing view of granitic magma production as a slow, equilibrium process that requires millions of years for completion.” I will continue to use this quote in my talks.
    Getting back to my field (zoology) we find compelling evidence for a young earth: “The banding looks so life-like that it can’t be geological in origin – it has to be biological… but then how do you square that with the well-known fact that the majority of organic molecules decay in thousands of years?” – M. Benton as quoted in BBC News, 8 July 2008 (also in Biology Letters). Benton (a staunch anti-creationist) was discussing pigmented feathers discovered in Brazil that are allegedly “100-mill-yrs-old.” This goes well with the soft dino tissue of Mary Schweitzer, evolutionary paleontologist at NCSU, Science, vol 307, no 5717, pp 1952-55, 3/25/2005. She is a theistic evolutionist like yourself and has, I believe, a genuine love for our Lord. Creation-basher Jeff Bada at Scripps Institute said (in relation to MS’s disc), “Bones absorb uranium like crazy. You’ve got an internal dose that will wipe out biomolecules.” – Discover, 4/06, p. 37. Indeed, physical chemists have shown that  beta pleated collagen (such as vessels found in the dino tissue) cannot last longer than 10,000 years. Dinosaurs becoming extict (of course, no 1 can say that with 100% certainty) “65 mill yrs ago” is nothing but a faith statement based on evolutionary naturalism. Evolutionists might bristle at what I just said, so I quote from what MS said in Discover (4/06), “I had one reviewer tell me that he didn’t care what the data said [soft dino tiss], he knew that what I was finding wasn’t possible. I wrote back and said “Well what data would convince you?” And he said “None”.
    A classic “don’t confuse me with the facts” statement that darwinists constantly accuse us of using.
    I do, however, agree wholeheartedly with two evolutionists when they said, “Some catastrophic event wiped out the dinosaurs…the evidence is elusive and controversial. Yet it all points to the dinosaur’s involvement in one of the most disastrous mass extinctions in Earth’s history.” – Gardom & Milner, The Natural History Museum Book of Dinosaurs, 2nd ed. 1993, pp. 78-79.
    Finally, they’re s l o w l y coming over to our side (Genesis 6-9)!!!


  6. geochristian

    I’ll have to read the full Petford article, which I don’t have access to right now. I suspect he is talking about:

    –Just part of the process. To form an igneous intrusion, rock must be melted to form the magma, the magma must migrate from where it melted to the location of the intrusion, it must crystallize, and then it must cool. Which part of this process was Petford talking about?

    –Just one individual component of a larger batholith. I very seriously doubt that he is talking about the emplacement of something large like the Sierra Nevada Batholith.

    Grace and Peace


  7. Pingback: Dinosaur footprints part 3 « The GeoChristian

  8. Pingback: Third anniversary of The GeoChristian « The GeoChristian

  9. matterhorn731

    To Windar 007,

    I really doubt you’ll respond to this considering that the last actual comment on this entry was in 2008. However, I was browsing the “Best of the GeoChristian” articles, saw your comment, and had to respond.

    Here’s my question: if the presence of biomolecules in a dinosaur fossil proves that the Earth is young because those molecules would have decayed if the fossil was millions of years old, why is this the exception rather than the rule? In other words, if all dinosaur fossils really were laid down by the flood only a little over 4000 years ago, what happened to the biomolecules in the vast majority of dinosaur fossils?

    I don’t know about your opinions on the RATE study and accelerated radioactive decay. Furthermore, I am by no means an expert on geology (what you and Geo were talking about in the comments above regarding granite formation went WAY over my head). However, it seems to me that the accelerated decay argument, in addition to melting the surface of the earth and frying Noah with radiation as I’ve seen argued in numerous old-earth sources, would require us to explain the presence of biomolecules just as much as modern geological science would (or more seeing as RATE’s model would involve the fossil-bearing rocks being somewhat molten). If there’s a different way to explain the lack of biomolecules in most fossils, obviously this is beside the point. But I can’t really think of any.

    Interested in hearing your thoughts (or Geo’s), though again, I don’t really expect any responses 4+ years after the discussion.

    Well, whoever reads this: have a nice day!


  10. matterhorn731

    P.S. And any discussion of replies is of course all assuming that we all don’t die horribly in the next 3.5 hours!

    [current time: 3:55 AM Eastern time. For future generations who don’t get the reference. The Mayan Calendar clocks over to at about the same time as the December Equinox (6:11 AM in this time zone).]

    :P :P :P


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