THE PALUXY RIVER "MAN PRINTS"
by Lenny Flank, Jr.
To see a photo of a Paluxy footprint
One of the most commonly encountered claims of the creationists is that creationist geologist Dr. Clifford Burdick, a member of the Creation Research Society, found modern human footprints next to dinosaur footprints along the Paluxy River, near Glen Rose, Texas, thus proving that (a) humans and dinosaurs lived at the same time, and (b) evolution must therefore be wrong. For instance, Henry Morris of the Institute for Creation Research, writes: "One of the most spectacular examples of anamolous fossils is the now well-known case of the Paluxy River footprints, in the Cretaceous Glen Rose formation of central Texas. Here, in the limestone beds, are found large numbers of both dinosaur and human footprints. The tracks occur in trails, and in two or three locations the dinosaur and human trails cross each other, with two known cases where human and dinosaur tracks actually overlap each other. . . These tracks and their discovery have been conclusively documented by on-the site, at-the-time, motion pictures." (Henry Morris, "Scientific Creationism", CLP Publishers, San Diego CA, 1974, pp 122-123)
As usual, this creationist claim is a mixture of misinterpretation, misrepresentation and unwillingness or inability to correct past mistakes. There is no evidence whatsoever for human footprints co-existing with dinosaurs anywhere along the Paluxy River, as both the Creation Research Society and the Institute for Creation Research now admit.
One of the earliest debunkings of the Paluxy footprints is reportedly contained in the book "Dinosaur Tracks and Giant Men", written in 1975 by Berney Neufeld, a creationist Seventh-Day Adventist, Flood geologist and geneticist. I've not been able to obtain a copy of this book yet, so I can only repeat citations from it that I've seen in other places. The conclusion reached by Neufeld was that there was not any "good evidence for the past existence of giant men", and the Paluxy River prints did not "provide evidence for the coexistence of such men (or other large mammals) and the giant dinosaurs." (cited in Ronald Numbers, "The Creationists", Alfred Knopf, NY, 1992, p. 266)
Burdick's original tale was that he had found human footprints actually overlapping those of dinosaurs, and this was the story that Morris and Whitcomb repeated in the first edition of their book "The Genesis Flood". Later, however, Burdick admitted that no such overlapping prints existed, and Morris and Whitcomb were forced to revise this portion of their text in the third edition. (cited in Numbers, 1992, pp. 202-203) (As shown above, Morris nevertheless repeated this debunked claim in 1974, in his book "Scientific Creationism".)
Paleontologists who examined the Paluxy "man prints" have without exception declared them to be nothing more than partially-registered dinosaur tracks, natural depressions, or, in some instances, deliberate forgeries carved by local residents to sell to tourists. These were also the conclusions reached by biologist Glen Kuban in 1980, as well as another group of scientists in 1984, which included physicist Ronnie Hastings, geologist Steven Schaferman, anthropologist John Cole and physical anthropologist Laurie Godfrey. (Arthur N. Strahler, "Science and Earth History", Prometheus Books, Buffalo NY, 1987, p. 463)
Descriptions of the Paluxy prints indicate that they range in size from around 11 inches to over 20 inches, and average about 15 inches.
The length of a human foot is equal to approximately 1/6.6 of the height, so if we have the length of the footprint, we can calculate the height of the person by multiplying this by 6.6 . (People who doubt this can easily get a ruler and try it on themselves.) A human being with 15 inch feet, therefore, would be approximately eight foot three inches tall. A human being with 11-inch feet would be a bit over six feet tall, and a human with 20 inch footprints would be about eleven feet tall. If these footprints are human, they are damn awful BIG humans.
Thus, one of Morris's theories of the Paluxy prints was that in the time before the Flood, evil demons took possession of human bodies and seduced young women, who then had children--"The men whose bodies were possessed," Morris says, "were evidently thereby made so attractive to women that they could take any they chose as wives. These 'Sons of God' thus controlled not only the men whose bodies they had acquired for their own usage, but also the wives they took to themselves, and then all the children they bore." Morris says that the children of these demons then became "the giants, the mighty men of old" mentioned in the Bible, and he speculates that these "giants" may have been the makers of the Paluxy River footprints (cited in Numbers, 1992, p. 211) It was this hypothesis that was taken on by Neufeld in his book. I think such a "scientific explanation" needs no further rebuttal.
Finally, if you examine the photos of the Paluxy prints in Morris's book "The Genesis Flood", you can clearly see loose sand and dirt that has been piled around the prints, particularly near the "toe" regions, and the effect of this (if not the intent) is to make the "toe" regions of these prints look much more humanlike than they would without them.
When the Paluxy River footprint story was printed in the "Creation Research Society Quarterly", it caused a lot of debate within CRS. Burdick was already under suspicion by CRS because of his claims to have found pollen grains in pre-Cambrian strata at the Grand Canyon--a claim which was investigated by two independent researchers at CRS expense and was found to be baloney (the investigators concluded that Burdick was too incompetent to take an uncontaminated sample). When Burdick announced his discovery of human footprints alongside of those of dinosaurs prints at Paluxy, Walter Lammerts, the co-founder of CRS, was skeptical, and inserted an editor's note into the original article in CRS Quarterly:
"Admittedly this discovery offers as much of a problem for Flood geologists as for those of the orthodox point of view. For it is difficult to explain how two men could still be alive after such a depth of strata had been deposited. And if already drowned, why were they not buried later in the Mesa Verde formation? A more detailed and clear-cut concept of just how the Flood accomplished its work is badly neeed in order to be able to see how such finds as these fit into theoretical expectations, or creationists will be guilty of the same ad hoc explanations as evolutionary minded colleagues." (cited in Numbers 1992, p. 266)
Privately, Lammerts had already begun to doubt Burdick's competence. He had received a letter from Burdick's old friend Frank Lewis Marsh, a fellow creationist, stating that Burdick had a "tendency to lean into the fantastic in geology" (cited in Numbers, 1992, p. 261) Lammerts wrote to fellow CRS co-founder Henry Morris that he was concerned about "the slowness of Burdick mentally when at the Creation seminar and hope he is not misleading us on some [of] his opinions. He for instance had evidently never heard of the series of horse-like animals found and was at a complete loss to explain them. Evidently he has not kept up with his reading very much." (cited in Numbers, 1992, p. 266)
Evidently not. Lammerts' suspicions about Burdick were confirmed when he investigated and found that Burdick had lied when he claimed to have had a Masters Degree from the University of Arizona. Lammerts investigated Burdick's claim that he had failed to get his PhD from the U of Arizona because of his creationist beliefs, and found that Burdick's story was baloney.
After this, Lammerts wrote to Morris that he hoped that Burdick was "really academically honest" and did "not have delusions of some easy road to fame", but admitted that the "doctors degree stuff" made him wonder. (cited in Numbers, 1992, p. 260)
In 1970, the CRS asked Wilbert Rusch to visit the Paluxy River and find out once and for all if the prints were real or not. Rusch concluded that the best he could say was that Burdick's claim was "not proven". (cited in Numbers, 1992, p. 265) Rusch concluded that Burdick had rushed into printing a sensational story with little to back it up--"We need these episodes for our cause," Rusch reported, "like we need a hole in the head. Premature statements, too strong statements on insufficient evidence, do us as much harm." (cited in Numbers 1992, p. 265) Lammerts, meanwhile, wrote again to Morris, "The whole footprint business raises more problems for our side than for evolutionists. On the basis of a worldwide Flood what were people doing WALKING [emphasis Lammerts'] around yet after so much sediment deposited? Burdick has never answered this question [he still hasn't today-!-LF] nor has any of the footprint enthusiasts." (cited in Numbers, 1992, p. 265)
In 1984, during a dry spell in which the Paluxy River dried up, two investigators found that the outline of the dinosaur prints at Paluxy exhibited a peculiar color change caused by a layer of slightly different-colored sediments filling them in after they were laid down, and these color changes were visible when the rock dried. When the riverbed was dry, entire new lines of three-toed dinosaur tracks were visible, even though they were not depressed to a noticeable degree. More importantly, THE SO-CALLED "MAN TRACKS" EXHIBITED THE SAME DIFFERENT-COLORED THREE-TOED OUTLINE, indicating that they were ALL the incompletely-registered tracks of dinosaurs, NOT humans. The two investigators, Kuban and Hastings, called upon the Institute for Creation Research to send investigators of their own, and after some prodding the ICR sent John Morris and several others. The evidence that the "man tracks" were in fact dinosaur prints was so convincing, even to the creationists, that John Morris himself wrote, in the January 1986 issue of the ICR's newsletter "Impact":
"In view of these developments, none of the four trails at the Taylor site can today be regarded as unquestionably of human origin. The Taylor trail appears, obviously, dinosaurian, as do two prints thought to be in the Turnage trail. The Giant trail has what appears to be dinosaur prints leading toward it, and some of the Ryals tracks seem to be developing claw features, also." (cited in Strahler, 1987, p. 469)
Morris concluded, ". . . it would now be improper for creationists to continue to use the Paluxy data as evidence against evolution." (cited in Strahler, 1987, p. 469)
Henry Morris, in an accompanying letter to ICR members tried to backpedal from the earlier statements of creationists (like himself) who had prominently featured the Paluxy prints as solid evidence that evolution was wrong: "This question in no way affects the basic creation/evolution issue. These tracks have always been only illustrative, not definitive, and the over-all scientific case against evolution, which is overwhelmingly strong, is not affected in any way." (cited in Numbers, 1992, p. 267, and in Strahler, 1987, p. 469)
Based on this evidence, Films for Christ, which made the movie "Footprints in Stone" claiming the Paluxy prints proved that humans and dinosaurs lived together, released a statement that read: "We highly recommend that no one represent any of the Paluxy tracks as proven evidence of human existence during the Cretaceous until final, reliable conclusions can be reached regarding new and old data." (cited in Strahler, 1987, p. 469)
Neither the Creation research Society nor the Institute for Creation Research nor Films for Christ maintains any longer that human footprints appear anywhere along the Paluxy River.
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