Thursday, 16 July 2015

Christadelphians using pseudoscience to argue that humans and dinosaurs coexisted

Christadelphian YEC Don Pearce has once more advanced a pseudoscientific view, [1] this time claiming in a lecture which has unfortunately been uploaded to YouTube that humans and dinosaurs coexisted. This view is of course false. Dinosaurs went extinct around 65 million years ago, while the oldest anatomically modern human fossils are approximately 200,000 years old. Pearce appeals to mythology, cryptozoology and YEC arguments of extremely dubious provenance in order to justify this argument. One example should suffice to highlight the complete absence of anything resembling competent research in this lecture, one which as I saw yesterday when one Christadelphian shared it to an evolution-creation Facebook group, will bring nothing but derision and scorn towards our community.

Around 21 minutes into the presentation, Pearce alleges that “fresh, not permineralized” hadrosaur bones were discovered by a petroleum geologist, and claims that the existence of bones “in fresh condition” over 70 million years was a major problem: 

Pearce has lifted this from an article by the creationist Margaret Helder at the Creation Ministries International website.[2] One of the references cited by Helder was a 1987 article in the Journal of Palaeontology. When I checked the article, it appears that Davies had a somewhat different account of the state of preservation of the fossils:
“The bones, catalogued as TMM 42475-1, apparently represent a quick surface collection by Liscomb, and consist of fragments of limb bones, ribs, and vertebrae. The quality of preservation is remarkable. The bones are stained a dark red brown but otherwise display little permineralization, crushing, or distortion.” [3] (Emphasis mine)
Two things are apparent. The first is that Helder has misrepresented the discovery. Davies notes that the bones display little permineralisation, while Helder claims they had no permineralisation. The second is that Davies nowhere hints at the bones being fresh.. Did Pearce check the original article? If he did, then he would have noted that the paper by Davies did not say that the bones were fresh and not permineralised. The only way he could have made this claim is if after he copied this CMI article for his slide, he failed to check the Davies reference, an action which is hard to reconcile with competent research.

Unsurprisingly, the Davies paper is quoted by some YEC organisations as evidence, but most of the citations are from mainstream scientists. One of them, a 2011 paper by Mary Schweitzer, mentions it in commenting on Hadrosaur skin:
Whatever underlying mechanisms dictate the preservation of integumentary-derived material in the rock record, there is no doubt of the value of these tissues in understanding aspects of the paleobiology of these organisms. The patterns of preserved skin may reveal phylogenetically distinct characters, shedding light on patterns of divergence in dinosaurs and other Mesozoic fossils—nonoverlapping scales are predominant in both hadrosaurs (Anderson et al. 1998, Davies 1987, Wegweiser et al. 2006) and sauropods Gimenez 2007, Martin & Czerkas 2000), for example, whereas in snakes and some lizards, regions of the skin exhibit overlapping scales. The scaly tubercles vary in size and may or may not demonstrate surface ornamentation, but they support the idea that nonoverlapping scales are primitive. [4]
Absent is any reference to the Hadrosaurs being fresh and unmineralised. Evidently, mainstream scientists do not regard the Hadrosaur discovery as being an example of fresh bones.

Finally, even some YECs have admitted that the Hadrosaur bones are not fresh. One of the YEC citations of the Davis paper is in the creationist magazine TJ (now Journal of Creation) where John Whitmore admits:
Recently, I have been barraged with a number of inquires about the dinosaur bones I collected from the North Slope of Alaska in 1994. The literature reported that the preservation of the bones was ‘remarkable’. This led many, including myself, to believe that the bones were ‘unfossilized’. Many (but not all) of the bones we collected were very lightweight, which seemed to confirm this hypothesis. It was our hope, because of the ‘remarkable’ preservation, that these bones might contain some ancient organic molecules. To date, our tests have not been able to confirm the ‘unfossilized’ hypothesis. Twenty of the bone samples were analyzed in Russia for collagen. Only four showed positive results. We became suspicious of these results when we were not able to confirm them with tests made by other labs. One report from a reputable laboratory in the United States told us the samples they tested were ‘extremely degraded’. Some of the bones have also been tested for DNA. The results were inconclusive. From our results thus far, the bones should not be referred to as ‘unfossilized’.  
The Bureau of Land Management Reports that the Alaskan bones are fossilized, but all of their pore spaces have not been filled in with rock, making many of them lightweight. They also report that no DNA had been discovered in the bones, but because of their condition, they might be good candidates for it. Until further testing can prove otherwise, the Alaskan dinosaur bones should be referred to as ‘fossilized’. [5] (Non-bold emphasis in original. Bold emphasis mine)
Pearce's claim that humans and dinosaurs coexisted appeals to carvings and drawings which have been interpreted as representing dinosaurs, claims that have been thoroughly debunked elsewhere, as have the claims about dinosaur 'soft tissue'. It is simply incredible that in the light of this evidence, he would make these claims, particularly given the ease with which they can be checked for accuracy.

Unfortunately, the fundamentalist wing of our community seems determined to make creation evangelism a prime preaching goal, as one can see by the plethora of poorly-researched anti-evolution videos that appear on Christadelphian YouTube channels. That this is a poor idea was shown yesterday when one person posted this video to a creation-evolution Facebook group. I captured much of the thread before it was deleted. (As the following is not a screen captured image, but a direct copy of the now-deleted Facebook thread, formatting is irregular.) It was received poorly, to say the least. In fact, it was a public relations disaster:

HISTORICAL & ARCHAEOLOGICAL & BIBLICAL PROOF that the Dinosaurs were in fact contemporary with man.

Like · Comment · Share
 Colin Penfold likes this.

Scott Schramm Where
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John Lappin ?
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Kevin Mirabella lol
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Art Courtonel HISTORICAL & ARCHAEOLOGICAL & BIBLICAL PROOF that the Dinosaurs were in fact contemporary with man. By Don Pearce given at Swanwick earlier this year...


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Kevin Mirabella LOL
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 Kevin Mirabella seriousluh?
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Scott Schramm Um no
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Art Courtonel Watch the video then try and dismiss the evidence.......if you can!
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Scott Schramm There is no evidence
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Kevin Mirabella i'm a bit in and haven't seen any evidence yet.
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Kevin Mirabella this'll help me happy/laugh myself to sleep.
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Jonathan Burke Have you heard the bit where he talks about St George and the dragon? It's conclusive!
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 Art Courtonel how can you say that when you have not watched it - ignorant attitude - blind leading the blind....
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Kevin Mirabella not yet! shh!!! spoilers!
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 Jonathan Burke I have watched it thanks Art.
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Kevin Mirabella there's 0 reason to take this seriously in the first place, Art.
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Art Courtonel Why not?
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Kevin Mirabella why?
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Kevin Mirabella any reason at all would suffice.
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 Art Courtonel Don has been researching this for years i think he at least deserves a listen.
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 Kevin Mirabella why?
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 Kevin Mirabella lots of people have researched UFOs for decades
46 mins · Like · 1

Art Courtonel His evidence is factual and compelling..
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 Kevin Mirabella or crop circles
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Kevin Mirabella it's not.
46 mins · Like

Art Courtonel What have ufo's got to do with creation?
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Kevin Mirabella 0 evidence.
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 Kevin Mirabella faith
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Kevin Mirabella belief.
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Kevin Mirabella do you have your own argument or think any particular argument is strong?
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Kevin Mirabella Are you a fan of Ken Ham? or the banana = god guy? feel free to answer the questions individually and not just one and move on.
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 Colin Penfold Art i would appreciate it if you explained your evidence rather then posting a video
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 Kevin Mirabella if it's on youtube, it's obviously true.
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 Art Courtonel The evidence is not of my finding it is of Don's so i am not in a position to defend it as he uses lots of images and news reports etc...
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Art Courtonel Just watch it in stead of trying to slam it down before you have even considered the evidence he provides.... i am off now...
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 Kevin Mirabella You can't defend your position, gotcha.
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Jonathan Burke And imagination.
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 Kevin Mirabella i'm 1/2 through it. no evidence yet.
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 Colin Penfold I think this article sumerise the evidence in the video 
Evolutionary Creationism: A Christadelphian Perspective: Examples of poor Christadelphian... CHRISTADELPHIANEVOLUTION.BLOGSPOT.COM

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Tom Jefferson //Don has been researching this for years i think he at least deserves a listen.//
                            I'll be glad to read his peer reviewed paper(s) on the topic. Can you link them please?
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 Kevin Mirabella he seems like a crazy person obsessed with cryptozoology so far.
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John Lappin Art Courtonel the dinosaurs were wiped out 65 million yrs ago - yet Christadelphians think the world is 6000 yrs old
34 mins · Like · 1

Art Courtonel how do you know they were wiped out 65 million yr ago- were you there when it happened?

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Art Courtonel Still alive!!! best have a word with it as i think no one told it it was supposed to be extinct 65 mil yrs ago....
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 Art Courtonel

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Art Courtonel


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 Kevin Mirabella yep, crazy person obsessed with cryptozoology hoping that proves he's correct.
28 mins · Like · 1

Kevin Mirabella it unfortunately shows the opposite.
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Kevin Mirabella he also doesn't seem to know those stones have been known hoaxes since the 70s.
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Tom Jefferson Art, coelacanths are not a single species. Extant ones are different species than extinct ones. Also, coelacanths are more closely related to homo sapiens than they are to ray-finned fish.
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 Dave Hudson From Wikipedia:


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Tom Jefferson The Ica Stones? Really? LOL
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 John Lappin Oh boy we have a presuppositionalist with how do you know where you there.

Were You There?Please consider supporting my work through Patreon here: http://www.patreon.... 

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Colin Penfold The world is not 6000 years and it 3-4 billion years old
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 Kevin Mirabella yeah i'm out of here for now
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Jonathan Burke 

Alleged Dinosaurs and in Ancient Art Many "young-earth" creationists (YECs) have claimed that dinosaurs and other prehistoric beasts are...

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Jonathan Burke I've seen some real clangers from Don, but this takes him into weirdness territory of majestic proportions.
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Colin Penfold YEC have no evidence just the Bible and distorted evidence
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Colin Penfold Stephen Maxwell another one who thinks the world is 6000 years old
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As a Christadelphian, threads such as this (as well as the presentation by Pearce that triggered it) embarrass me as they show why creation evangelism, YEC, and militant evolution denialism are appalling preaching methods. They are an own-goal, giving non-theists a perfect target for derision and scorn given the demonstrably false nature of the claims made in the Pearce video. They link our community with the most extreme elements of the YEC movement, meaning that scientifically literate interested people will be disinclined to join us as they will infer from this that ours is a community which is militantly anti-intellectual and will not welcome open discussion on this issue. One does not need to be an evolutionary creationist to be appalled by this video - I am aware of old earth creationists in our community who are deeply disturbed by the claims made in Pearce's presentation. The fact that the above thread has now been deleted raises the possibility that anti-evolutionists in our community may be recognising that creation evangelism and militant anti-evolutionism are poor preaching tactics. I certainly hope so.


1. In November 2013, The Christadelphian published an article co-authored by Nigel Bernard which made the ludicrous claim that the volcanic island of Surtsey provided evidence for a young Earth. I criticised both the article for its many inaccuracies, as well as The Christadelphian for the regrettable decision to grant cover article status to an article endorsing the pseudoscientific view that the Earth is young.

2. Helder M “Fresh dinosaur bones found” Creation Ministries International

3. Davies, K.L. ‘Duck-bill Dinosaurs (Hadrosauridae, Ornithischia) from the North Slope of Alaska’, Journal of Paleontology, (1987) 61:198-200

4. Schweitzer M.H. “Soft Tissue Preservation in Terrestrial Mesozoic Vertebrates” Ann. Rev. Earth Planet Sci. (2011) 39:187-216

5. Whitmore J.H. ‘Unfossilized’ Alaskan dinosaur bones? TJ (2005) 19:66