Creationism and the Paluxy Controversy

Wayne Spencer


Part 3: My personal opinions concerning the negative impact of Carl Baugh's ministry on the modern creation movement.

I would like to clarify that I do not question Mr. Baugh's sincerity or character as a Christian in general. I do not want to imply that he is dishonest. I would also applaud the fact that he does present the gospel clearly. I agree with him on a number of basic points about Biblical creation. I do however, feel that there is a lack of reliability and carefulness in what he teaches and publishes to people. It is important that Christians use discernment in evaluating the teachings of all creationists. He also has sometimes presented dogmatically in published materials his unique ideas which have glaring technical problems and does not present the more plausible and more common creationist positions as possibilities. I have been told that he has presented more than one point of view at some conferences on some topics. He is to be commended for how the Creation Evidences Museum has been a ministry that has reached the Christian community. He has also spoken in many Churches, on Television, and has reached a significant number of people with the creation message. He has undoubtedly persuaded a number of people to change from the evolutionary point of view to a creationary point of view. But persuading people does not excuse clearly ignoring glaring problems with incorrect scientific information. Numbers should not be the primary basis for evaluating any ministry. I would agree with Carl Baugh on the basics of creation, that Genesis 1 teaches six literal days, in the world-wide Flood of Noah, and that the Earth and the Universe are only thousands of years in age rather than billions. I would also agree with him in rejecting macroevolution, the concept of unlimited biological change from amoeba to man.

Today, many leading creationists are still reluctant to believe in human footprints in the Glen Rose area. This is not only because of ICR's position against human footprints. Others do accept the human footprints because a number of creationists have studied them. Much of the scepticism is due to the effective loss of credibility of Carl Baugh in the minds of many creationist leaders. This is not the case for all creation leaders by any means, but many active leading creationists and creationists with degrees in the sciences would not have much respect for the ministry or writings of Carl Baugh. Some of the criticism of Mr. Baugh may be unfair on some issues. Mr. Baugh must back up his ideas much better in certain subjects in order to regain some of the credibility he has lost. I would hope that Mr. Baugh will base his teachings more on the well documented research of other creationists that has been published at a technical level. He has done this on some topics and this is to be commended. He generally has not done this in his published materials regarding the issue of how God created the preflood Earth.

Many Christians in the Dallas-Fort Worth area seem to think that Carl Baugh represents what you could call "mainstream creationism," but he most certainly does not, on certain issues. Many people in the sciences who are not Christians or creationists would have the same impression that Baugh represents the mainstream among creationists because he has been in the limelight more in some respects than other creationists. The unreasonable claims made by Mr. Baugh have contributed to giving creationists in the sciences a bad name among their colleagues in science. When a creationist in science (a professor, graduate student, or perhaps a teacher) is around non-Christians or highly committed evolutionist colleagues, it is common for the creationist in science to be ridiculed or criticized. They are criticized because of the impression evolutionists have that creationists are ignorant and that their scientific arguments are sloppy or outdated. Some Christians who have been active promoting creationism have deserved these criticisms. I could list other names of such creationists, but they are not nearly so well known as Mr. Baugh in most cases. I would say in fairness that in recent years there is some improvement in that Mr. Baugh now seems a bit more aware of other creationist research than in the past. Sometimes even well respected creationists have deserved some criticisms. This is why creationists must keep each other honest and on track from a healthy critique of each other. This is the reason for the concept of peer review. It is basic accountability.

What we publish and teach must be well documented and must stand up to scrutiny. In time, some ideas may have to be thrown out in the light of new information. It is no disgrace to change ones point of view or stop selling some materials because of outdated information. I have personally had to do this and my experience is that Christains generally respect the effort to maintain a level of integrity and honesty in this way. It is also important to be honest and up front with people we teach, that we not say one thing in one setting in private and another contradictory idea in public. All creationists need to be careful about these issues.

It is very important for creationists to be responsible and careful in what is taught to the public, who do not have enough knowledge to evaluate new discoveries at a technical level. It is important that facts be documented well and it is important that really new ideas be critiqued at a technical level before they are published for the public at a nontechnical level. This is what academic peer review is all about. Creationists are almost totally shut out of publishing creation related papers in the technical scientific literature, so creationists have developed their own technical publications for the purpose of technical peer review. Peer review is consistent with the Biblical principle of accountability. It is very easy to be mistaken or incorrect when attempting to develop new models or new scientific theories, and so peer review prevents error, though it is not perfect. If a new idea stands up to the criticism of peer review then it can be taken to the public with some confidence. Of course, there are often different opinions about what the scientific data indicate. But the peer review process is valuable for refining our thinking. The peer review process has been almost totally lacking in regard to research at the Paluxy. I say this because to my knowledge, very few or no technical level papers have been submitted for publication in any technical level creationist source. It is possible that some papers I may not be aware of could have been rejected unfairly even by creationist publications, because of the bad reputation that has been acquired by Paluxy related research. There also could be some forthcoming. The Paluxy area is certainly worthy of study, but there is a need for more technical level documentation and peer review of the information.

Carl Baugh is not the only creationist who has been involved in fossil digs and other related research at Glen Rose. Don Patton, a geologist from the Dallas area, has done extensive study of the Glen Rose footprints. Other creationists have made trips to Glen Rose on many occasions and there has been much discussion and debate among creationist leaders about the various findings from Glen Rose. When I moved to Texas in 1995, I was skeptical about the claim of human footprints within dinosaur footprints (the current explanation given at the museum and by Don Patton), but I did not have a strong opinion one way or the other. Now, I think that the prints in question are very likely a human track way that is essentially on top of a dinosaur track way. I am not a geologist or paleontologist and so my opinion on this really is of no consequence. But I must point out I believe this because of the research done by a number of creationists that confirms this conclusion. It is not my purpose here to deal with the evidence regarding the footprints at length.

I would say that the issue of human footprints with dinosaur footprints is important. Solid evidence for this is a serious blow to macroevolution. So, the question needs to be looked into seriously. Though many creationists in the sciences are skeptical about the evidence of the human prints, I believe that the facts point to this conclusion. I would not believe this because Carl Baugh alone said so. The evidence for the human prints includes the following: First, the famous Burdick print (which some dispute as being a carving) does seem to have evidence of pressure from the cross section of the toe and heel areas; I think this suggests an authentic print. Second, anthropological tests have been applied to footprint track ways at Glen Rose using certain ratios of foot dimensions to show that the prints fit human foot proportions. Third, a number of footprints have been found in left right sequence which exhibit reasonable spacing, proportions, and form to be human, though some are clearer than others. Fourth, a double blind identification study was conducted at Wichita State University by Psychology professor Dr. Paul Ackerman (a personal friend of mine). This study showed that students were able to identify that they were human prints and the left-right characteristic was often identified correctly in spite of the prints being presented in random orders and orientations. This is not all that could be said about the footprints. Thus, I accept the evidence of human footprints in spite of the teachings of Mr. Baugh, not because of them.

The Creation Evidences Museum has a number of interesting fossils and artifacts. The Glen Rose area is an excellent region for fossils, dinosaur prints, and occasional other finds of some significance. In addition to the finds from the Glen Rose area, other similar excavations have been carried out in a number of other sites in other states by Mr. Baugh or by Don Patton. There are also other creationists not associated with the Glen Rose Museum who are studying similar fossil footprints in Arizona. I do not want to say much about these studies since my purpose here is to address the more well known publicized teachings of Mr. Baugh. These well publicized issues include the following: 1) the fossil footprints of humans in Glen Rose cretaceous limestone with dinosaur footprints, 2) the search for Noah's Ark, 3) the London Artifact (iron hammer in rock), 4) a purported fossil finger, and 5) Mr. Baugh's model of the Earth as it was first created. Item number 5 on Baugh's model of creation and the preflood Earth was focused on in Part 2 of this paper.

Mr. Baugh it seems has always pursued the more dramatic and sensational findings. It is my experience that dramatic and sensational findings seldom turn out to be really important in the long run, though there are a few exceptions. On the other hand, arguments that are not dramatic but have required years of research to document are more important and more enduring.

The search for Noah's Ark has been an issue with much dramatic appeal to Christians. Noah's Ark could be on one of the mountains of Ararat, but no one knows where. On the other hand, it is also very plausible that the Ark could have been destroyed long ago by volcanism. There are several independent reports of it being seen at different times in history that are consistent with each other. It is hard to know how much to trust these accounts. There have also been many fraudulent and unreliable reports about the Ark, so Christians should be very cautious. I have nothing at all against Mr. Baugh attempting to find the Ark. I would be thrilled if it were discovered. But Mr. Baugh has made claims that are too confident and he has sometimes given Christians the impression that he has definitely found the Ark, and that is not true. In recent years, he seems to have de-emphasized the Ark issue some but he has appeared on Television on more than one occasion making claims about the Ark that are questionable. Christians have often very foolishly allowed themselves to believe something that is just what they want to hear about Noah's Ark, without examining all the aspects of the issue adequately. I have made the same mistake. Nonchristians have ridiculed Christians over belief in Noah's Ark, not because Christians believe it existed as the Bible says, but because Christians have so easily accepted fraudulent or implausible claims. Implausible or dishonest claims about the Ark have come from a number of individuals. Mr. Baugh is not fraudulent, but he should be much more cautious.

My general criticisms are that though Mr. Baugh is involved in some potentially worthwhile and valuable research projects, he claims too much too soon over too little evidence. Also, he is not careful and correct enough in what he tells the public on some issues. Too many radical dramatic claims have been made to the press or published by the museum, even though no one with the right kind of scientific credentials has ever researched the issues adequately. Thus, the peer-review accountability process is by-passed and unreliable or incorrect information is given to the Christian community. Sometimes certain laboratory tests have been done, but no technical details of these tests have been published anywhere. Some scientists have shown some interest in the museum's research projects, but none of these scientists have published anything on the relevant issues. It appears that no one with the proper types of credentials is involved in researching the various issues related to the laboratory tests. So, how can any firm conclusions be reached? This applies to the iron hammer from London, Texas, the fossil finger, and also the hyperbaric biosphere chamber research. Mr. Baugh claims support from certain doctors or certain types of laboratory tests, but no one of any scientific credentials publishes anything about any of these tests. There is nothing wrong with having some valid tests done, and these items may be worthwhile research projects, but one in Mr. Baugh's position should be very careful what is told to the public. Sometimes too much is claimed from the little that is really known. If there is support from individuals with good credentials, then those people should be willing to publish something in print that defends and documents the work.

There are also problems with scientific information frequently being explained incorrectly by Mr. Baugh, with facts incorrect. Sometimes certain matters are explained in a manner that is so vague that it simply does not make any sense. Creationists who have degrees in the sciences are trying to be very careful in doing serious research, on their own time with no funding from anyone so they can overcome the misinformation and bad reputation creationists have come to have in the eyes of people in science and education. These creationists have a quieter kind of ministry. It may take years of slow detailed work just to be able to justifiably make one small statement. But somehow Mr. Baugh is able to make bold strong dramatic claims of ideas not in line with other creationist research, and he will do so over little or no evidence. Creationists who have worked long and hard to earn graduate degrees in the sciences are rightly very offended by this kind of sloppiness and lack of thoroughness! It is extremely important for creationists to be thorough in documentation and careful in what is presented to the public!

Therefore this is a call for Mr. Baugh to be more careful and be straightforward with the public. Some materials on the crystalline canopy model published by Baugh in my opinion should be taken off the market and no longer sold. Another option (though I personally do not think this would be adequate) may be to include some type of explanatory note or article with the materials qualifying what is said or pointing out certain errors. It would be better if the crystalline canopy were presented solely on Biblical grounds with no claim made that there is any scientific support for it. In new materials such as books and videos, Mr. Baugh would do well to at least present along side his own, the more common views that creationists in the sciences have developed so that Christians are better informed. I do not intend to imply that no one should buy Baugh's videos, attend his lectures, or visit his museum. In fact, I would encourage anyone to be exposed to all the above in order to get first-hand information. I just think there is a great glaring need for misinformation to be corrected and for Christians to be more aware and discerning. I hope that this article will help Christians in this way and will help Mr. Baugh refine his ideas, to the benefit of the creation movement. I would like to see Carl Baugh earn back some of the credibility he has lost.

Addendum-May 1999

The above article, Parts 1, 2, and 3, were sent to Carl Baugh with a letter in early March of 1999 asking him to respond to the issues and clarify his point of view. Mr. Baugh first responded by sending a list of references, more explanation of his canopy ideas, and made critical comments about "Creationism and the Paluxy Controversy." After making some changes to try not to misrepresent Baugh, I sent another revision and letter to him which he did not respond to. Mr. Baugh appears to not be willing to allow his ideas to undergo any peer review. I have asked him to explain what he thinks about peer review and he has not responded as of this writing. He also has not provided sufficient scientific basis (or documentation) for some of his teachings. If Baugh were to change his point of view in a public way or clearly show that anything I have said is incorrect, I would be glad to make any necessary changes. Copies of this paper are available free of charge from Creation Education Materials, P.O. Box 153402, Irving, TX 75015-3402.

List of Sources

Baugh, Carl E., Panorama of Creation, 1989, published by Creation Evidences Museum, Reprinted 1992.

Baugh, Carl, "Creation in Symphony," (video series), 1995 copyrighted by Carl Baugh, produced by Take One Video and Post, Carrollton, Texas.

Baugh, Carl, "Creation in Symphony: The Model," (video series), 1996 copyrighted by Carl Baugh, produced by Take One Video and Post, Carrollton, Texas.

Garbe, Robert; Miller, Hugh; Whitmore, John; Detwiler, George; Wilder, Doug; Vosler, Frank; Ditmars, John; Davis, D.; "Direct Dating of Cretaceous-Jurassic Fossils (And Other Evidences for Human-Dinosaur Coexistence)," Proceedings of the 1992 Twin-Cities Creation Conference, published by The Twin-Cities Creation-Science Association.

Helfinstine, Robert F. and Roth, Jerry D., Texas Tracks and Artifacts, 1994 by Helfinstine and Roth.

Mao, H. K. and Hemley, R. J., "Optical Studies of Hydrogen Above 200 Gigapascals: Evidence for Metalization by Band Overlap," Science, Vol. 244, June 23, 1989, pp 1462-1465.

Morris, John D., "The Paluxy River Mystery," ICR Impact Article number 151, January 1986, Institute for Creation Research.

Morris, John D., Tracking Those Incredible Dinosaurs and the People Who Knew Them, 1980, reprinted 1981, by CLP Publishers (taken out of circulation by ICR).

Whitcomb, John C. and Morris, Henry M., The Genesis Flood, 1961 by The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co.