Creationists on paleontology

Can anyone think of any examples where creationists have misrepresented information or drawn wrong conclusions from the field of paleontology? I’m especially looking for examples where creationists say that fossils are out of place in the geological column. Is there any truth in that claim?

I have never seen anyone claim fossils are out of order because they don’t believe they are in order to begin with. You know all mixed up in the global flood.

Polystrate fossils are constantly misrepresented by many Young Earth Creationist websites/authors/speakers.

The fossil research of Dr. Mary Schweitzer is misrepresented on a massive scale. (Young Earth Creationist Mark Armitage has, to his credit, done some of his own research on “soft tissues” in fossils—and that is to me quite notable because most YECs don’t do a lot of hands-on laboratory research that gets published even in obscure journals. Armitage makes a lot of massive blunders because he simply doesn’t have the background to defy and challenge the research of scientists like Dr. Schweitzer. But I do think you would find his videos interesting. To see a nice selection, Google the words:

mark armitage soft tissues triceratops videos

…and select VIDEOS.

I do NOT think that Armitage is misrepresenting anything in terms of deliberate dishonesty. But he does get a lot of facts wrong and thereby misrepresents what scientists have discovered and published. (Of course, the fact that he continues to post various bizarre claims even though many scientists have corrected his errors, both in published articles and direct emails, one might argue that an ethical boundary is crossed. But that is a complicated issue that I won’t try to resolve.)

Of course, many would say that Young Earth Creationist have misrepresented the science and the evidence every time they claim the earth is 6,000 years old. So you might want to express your question more specifically.

Thanks for your reply. Yes I should clarify a bit further. By misrepresenting, I primarily mean, instances where they reference a paper from “secular” science, and summarize it in a way that contradicts the conclusions from the original findings.

Or instances where they quote one finding that seems to contradict mainstream science, but ignore the vast body of evidence that supports it.

Or as you have mentioned, instances where maybe they don’t seem to be deliberately misrepresenting anything, but might have said something that is not quite scientifically rigorous, and subsequently not open to corrections.

Of course, that is virtually the definition of “creation science” apologetics! Some would say that “Cherry-pick & spin” should be the slogan for new recruits.

For example, Piltdown man was found about a century ago and never had any impact on our understanding of human evolution. Yet, anti-evoluiton propagandists treat it as if it undermined and destroyed the Theory of Evolution forever—which makes no sense.

There were strong reservations about it from the beginning (and a very critical journal article appeared almost “immediately”, though in those days “immediately” in the prominent appropriate journal of that era was around three years out because of the next open slot in the scheduled issues (or so I’ve been told.) Anyway, those in charge of the Piltdown find generally uncooperative about giving access to peers and they also delayed releasing their notes and descriptive data. Obviously, when the scientific method including peer access is inhibited, it is difficult for much to happen. And because “Piltdown Man” didn’t make much sense, paleontologists basically continued their work without really fitting the Piltdown find into their views of human evolution.

Anybody who knows anything about the scientific method knows that a single hoax an entire century ago is simply irrelevant to the merits of the Theory of Evolution.

Another cherry-picked example that’s a silly anti-evolution argument is the Nebraska Man blunder from a century ago. Exactly one scientist and then a few of his colleagues misidentified a pig’s tooth as human. (Actually, that’s an relatively easy mistake to make.) Yet, YEC’s spin it as if it is central to the Theory of Evolution and represents a fatal flaw. So-called Nebraska Man never played any role in textbooks for enjoyed any consistency from the scientific academy. Of course, that doesn’t seem to deter dishonest spin-artists.

Frankly, when I was a Young Earth Creationist, these kinds of propaganda antics both frustrated and depressed me. I often wondered what a colleague of mine asked Henry Morris outright: “If we have the truth on our side, why should we ever need to lie or misrepresent the science?” He claims he got a lot of chiding from Morris who answered, “What? You think evolutionists don’t lie on a daily basis?” He said that the ethical implications of that justification for dishonesty caused him great anxiety and a kind of crisis of confidence in what he had been teaching.

I get the impression that it was the questionable ethics of anti-evolution tactics that placed as big of a role in people leaving the “creation science” movement as the examination of the evidence. For those who had been teaching Young Earth Creationism, how they represented the Lord Jesus Christ was even more important than the accuracy of their science.

Ignoring the scientific evidence was disturbing enough for me. But the crisis of conscience in feeling that I was part of something very dishonest was far more disturbing. I still get depressed about it because I helped mislead a lot of people while claiming to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. (I’m not saying that everybody I knew who taught Young Earth Creationism was deliberately dishonest. Not at all! But I was often disturbed how easily misrepresentation and sloppy citations and casual repetition without much concern for accuracy and honesty was disturbing. And if some bogus claim seemed to be handy for making important points in a presentation, nobody seemed to care enough to remove it.)


Very interesting reply, thanks for including your personal experiences while you were in the YEC movement. When did you start realizing that there was dishonesty going on? Was it a gradual or sudden realization? And when you realized, did you know how widespread it was in the creationist literature?

I don’t know if this is the kind of thing you are looking for, but people have compiled lists of “quote mining” done by creationists.

Hi @SamuraiChamploo -

Joel Duff, a Biologos blogger, is a Ph.D. biologist and polymath who has done a lot of research in geology and paleontology. You would find his blog Naturalis Historia very helpful, I think.

Grace and peace,
Chris Falter

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