Appealing to public emotions is a tool employed by politicians, media, and anyone trying to win supporters for a specific agenda. Naturally, such efforts can skew or omit facts, as is often the case in mainstream presentations of the ongoing battle between evolution and creation science. A recent Discovery News feature provides a telling example of this particular ploy.
Published online July 11, the feature is titled "Evolution Controversies: A History in Photos" and includes photographs from the Scopes "Monkey" trial of 1925, a cartoon of British naturalist Charles Darwin with the body of an ape, and a photograph of an exhibit in the Institute for Creation Research's former Museum of Creation and Earth History in Santee, California.1 Of the ten photographs, two portray what the author says are claims used by creationists as "scientific proof of young Earth creationism": the dinosaur footprints in Glen Rose, Texas, and a petroglyph in Utah that resembles a dinosaur.
Geologist and ICR President John Morris reported on the Paluxy River footprints in 1976,2 which at the time many creation scientists believed showed human and dinosaur footprints together. However, in light of continuing study, he reexamined the issue and wrote in 1986:
Even though it would now be improper for creationists to continue to use the Paluxy data as evidence against evolution, in the light of these questions, there is still much that is not known about the tracks and continued research is in order. We stand committed to truth, and will gladly modify or abandon our previous interpretation of the Paluxy data as the facts dictate.3
So, Discovery News' statement that "creationists claim that human footprints can be seen right beside dinosaur tracks"1 is about 25 years out of date. Creation science researchers have moved on, a fact that was omitted from the Discovery News' emotionally oriented appeal.
In the case of the Utah petroglyph, which Discovery News reported was "just a mud stain" in March of this year,4 ICR Science Writer Brian Thomas wrote:
ICR Senior Science Lecturer Frank Sherwin visited this petroglyph a number of years ago. He commented that although it looked interesting to him, he did not consider it to be as compelling as other historical evidence—such as dinosaur original soft tissues, written or sculpted eyewitness accounts of dragon encounters from all over the world, or certain Bible passages like Job 40—that have convinced him that dinosaurs and man were contemporaneous. The case for creation does not hinge on this one Utah artifact.5
So attempts such as Discovery News' outdated references that try to place creationists in the same unscientific camp as flat-earth believers6 do not take into account that creation science researchers are willing to examine the data and, if necessary, move on to more interesting and securely justifiable discoveries, such as the soft dinosaur tissues or historical worldwide dragon encounters Mr. Thomas mentioned.7
Discovery News' bias is further demonstrated by the fact that, although the author was careful to include instances that he thought "disproved" creationist claims, he failed to mention examples of the supposed evidence used to support evolution and long ages that have been debunked, such the classification of Tiktaalik and Pakicetus as transitional forms (aka "missing links"),8 and the accuracy of potassium-argon radioisotope-dating techniques.9
Appealing to public emotions can be effective, because it often does not require the appealers to present all the facts surrounding the topic. However, when the dust settles, the facts will not go away. If they demonstrate anything, anti-science presentations such as the Discovery News feature show that emotional appeals are needed to promote evolution because there is no real science behind it.
- al-Khatib, T. Evolution Controversies: A History in Photos. Discovery News. Posted on news.discovery.com July 11, 2011, accessed July 14, 2011.
- Morris, J. D. 1976. The Paluxy River Tracks. Acts & Facts. 5 (5).
- Morris J. D. 1986. The Paluxy River Mystery. Acts & Facts. 15 (1).
- Niiler, E. 'Proof of Creation' Dino Drawing Just a Mud Stain. Discovery News. Posted on news.discovery.com March 25, 2011, accessed July 14, 2011.
- Thomas, B. Utah Dinosaur Petroglyph Disputed. ICR News. Posted on icr.org April 7, 2011, accessed July 14, 2011.
- Daniel Shenton of The Flat Earth Society told LiveScience in June that he and his followers believe the earth is flat: "To look around, the world does appear to be flat, so I think it is incumbent on others to prove decisively that it isn't. And I don't think that burden of proof has been met yet." LiveScience also reported that Mr. Shenton believes in evolution and global warming. See Wolchover, N. Ingenious 'Flat Earth' Theory Revealed In Old Map. LiveScience. Posted on livescience.com June 23, 2011, accessed July 14, 2011.
- For examples of fresh dinosaur tissues, see the many examples listed on the "Fresh Tissues Show That Fossils Are Recent" page in ICR's collection of Evidence for Creation. For a small sampling of archaeological examples of dinosaur interactions with humans, see Morris, J. 2008. The Dinosaur Next Door. Acts & Facts. 37 (6): 13.
- Morris, J. D. and F. J. Sherwin. 2010. The Fossil Record. Dallas, TX: Institute for Creation Research, 149, 172. See also Sherwin, F. Banner Fossil for Evolution Is Demoted. ICR News. Posted on icr.org January 27, 2010, accessed July 14, 2011.
- Woodmorappe, J. 1999. The Mythology of Modern Dating Methods. El Cajon, CA: Institute for Creation Research, 22.
*Ms. Dao is Assistant Editor at the Institute for Creation Research.
Article posted on July 26, 2011.