Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Slaying the Creationist Dragon

The 'pterosaur' of Black Dragon Canyon, Utah
Source: Science.Credit: WHIT RICHARDSON/ALAMY
‘Winged monster’ on ancient rock art debunked by scientists | Science/AAAS | News

Creationism is really little more than an obsession with fossils, probably because creationists realise what a threat fossils pose to their simplistic, Bible literalist views.

When dinosaur fossils were first found, they were dismissed variously as 'Devil stones' planted by Satan to mislead us; the bones of giants or 'Behemoth' so confirming the Bible; forgeries and fakes by lying scientists; diseased versions of living species or indeed anything at all bar the fossilised remains of creatures which lived millions of years before humans. The problem was, of course, that, according to the Bible, humans and the other animals were all created within a day or two of one another and all lived together pretty much as they do today.

The other problem for creationist is that there is so much evidence for dinosaurs now that even other creationists laugh at those who still dismiss them as forgeries, Satan's work, not there, etc. And besides, children love dinosaurs and the last thing a creationist would want is to put their most vulnerable and easily duped victims off by telling them dinosaurs never existed.

That just leaves the little problem of Noah's Ark. No real problem there, though; either they all drowned and none were saved, or they all fitted on the Ark along with all the other species and were around until just a few thousand years ago. Why, they probably helped build the ark and the chances are that Jesus was quite familiar with T. Rex, Triceratops, Diplodocus and Pterodactyls, even probably having a pet one.

So, the important thing is to find evidence that, even if the ancient Greeks, Romans, Persians, Egyptians and Sumerians never left any records of them, someone, somewhere lived with dinosaurs and left records. All this fanciful extinction stuff, and living before humans when God obviously created everything just for humans just has to be wrong, or else the Bible is!

It’s unfortunate that science has to keep fighting these battles, but because the painting continues to be used to promote nonscientific views of the world, it became necessary to demonstrate with complete clarity that those ideas are just wrong.

David Whitley, Rock Art expert
Imagine their excitement then when in 1940, John Simonson climbed up the rocks in Black Dragon Canyon, Utah, USA, and drew a chalk outline around what he could make out as the faded and indistinct outline of a figure pained on the rock to reveal what looked like a winged monster. What more proof could a creationist want that humans lived with dinosaurs? You know, winged monster = dragon = pterosaur = dinosaur.

Well, it'll do to convince people that modern science is all wrong anyway and obviously if modern science is all wrong, the Bible must be literally true because it's science which keeps on showing people that it isn't.

I completely agree with their findings, and they did a good job. I'm disappointed they still referenced me in the paper because I don't stand by that interpretation anymore.... Hopefully this paper, which reveals details invisible to the human eye, will dissuade them from believing in the pterosaur.

Vance Nelson
And never shy of making a load of dosh out of creationists who'll pay good money to have their bias 'confirmed' with real evidence - because, you know... who needs evidence when your faith is strong? - young Earth creationist, Vance Nelson, wrote a book in 2011 called Untold Secrets of Planet Earth: Dire Dragons using this 'winged monster' from Utah as one of his examples.

This was seized on with glee by Ken Ham's 'Answers in Genesis' as proof that Ham's claims that dinosaurs and humans coexisted even a few thousand years ago, and it's still widely cited, despite the fact that Nelson actually went and checked again and realised his claim was false. He removed it from subsequent editions of his book and asked his creationist colleagues to stop using it. In the finest creationist traditions of a refuted claim not being a reason to stop making it though, this is still cited as evidence for a young Earth and proof that the Bible is literally true.

And now archaeologists have finally debunked the claim by showing that the chalk outline drawn by John Simonson in 1940 was a misinterpretation (to put it kindly) of what was actually there. What was actually there were five figures in a style common in the area, not one of which resembles a dragon or a dinosaur. What the scene represents, like the neolithic cave art in Europe is a matter for speculation but what it doesn't show is that humans and dinosaurs co-existed.

What is really there.
Source: Science.Credit: Jean-Loïc Le Quellec
The pictograph discovered at Black Dragon Canyon, Utah, in the late 1920s, is a classic example of the Barrier Canyon style, dating probably to AD 1–1100. Creationists, however, have argued, from the incomplete preservation of the motifs, that it depicts a winged monster or pterosaur. A new study using portable X-ray fluorescence refutes this ill-founded interpretation and reveals a scene characteristic of Barrier Canyon style, featuring an anthropomorphic figure. By removing interpretational bias, the new technology finally lays to rest the Black Dragon Canyon pterosaur.

So, another creationist dragon has been slain, and we see yet another example of their over-eagerness to grasp at any tenuous evidence as confirmation of their bias, despite their professed disdain for real, peer-reviewed, verified and definitive scientific evidence when it doesn't support their sacred conclusion.

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