Meanwhile, Back on the Dinosaur Ranch
Sid Perkins went on a dinosaur hunt in Montana this past July, and wrote up his experiences for the cover story of the Aug. 26 issue of Science News. It was more personal diary than science. Perkins talked about the teamwork, hard work, and the occasional thrill of finding a fragment of bone that the leader would promptly interpret; e.g., “Murphy estimated that the meat eater had shed the fragment around 150 million years ago.”
Perkins wanted to describe to readers what goes on in the field in this kind of scientific research. Captioned photos show the tents at base camp, a campfire sing, and workers swinging pickaxes or delicately examining small pieces of bone. He described how the precious quarry is plastered and wrapped, how the species are identified, and how the tools of the trade (jackhammers and fine brushes, sketch boards and notebooks) are used.
Perhaps the only statement of notable scientific consequence appears inconspicuously in the middle of the narrative. Perkins talks about how, during the winter, the site must be protected from harsh weather and the hooves of grazing cows. He adds, “We also have to be careful not to damage the crumbly end of the bone that had been exposed to the elements before its discovery.” Just earlier, a paleontologist estimated the sediments to be 150 million years old.
There is very little difference between this journal and one that could have been written by a participant on a creationist dino dig (07/23/2003, 05/21/2002). Both groups might have described similar emotions in sharing a sometimes monotonous, sometimes exciting adventure, learning teamwork, and feeling good about contributing to science. The main differences would be the songs sung around the campfire – undoubtedly “Amazing Grace” at the creationist camp instead of the selection Perkins listed at the evolutionist camp, “Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road” – and the dates. The evolutionary paleontologists tossed around their millions of years without a qualm or objection. Perkins saw himself, though, that the delicate, crumbly fragments of bone were easily damaged by footprints and weather. Eyewitnesses on creationist digs in Montana have been stunned to find vulnerable dinosaur bones all over the surface.
We live in a world of constant change easily seen within our own lifetimes. A hurricane or tsunami sweeps away a coastline. A volcano buries an island or emerges from the sea. Landslides open a new canyon. Earthquakes rearrange the terrain. Glaciers melt back for miles, and worldwide climate trends frighten the pundits. These changes are the stories we tell our children, and written human records reveal a thousand more examples. In spite of that, the paleontologists want us to believe that these dinosaur bones, some with soft tissue inside (02/22/2006), remained entombed within this formation for a duration exceeding all human recorded history by 37,000 times, enduring global tectonic changes, mountain building episodes, continental uplifts, climate fluctuations, floods and fire, only to crumble away now in an ordinary winter rainstorm or cow’s footstep.
You can choose to sing a song about roadkill and trust in theories vulnerable to being trampled underfoot. Some look at the same data and sing, I once was lost and now am found, was blind but now I see.