Creationism and Human and Dinosaur Footprints

By Jason Tentinger

Both creationists and evolutionists often search for evidence to support their respective beliefs. Although most creationists derive their beliefs from the Bible, many still do look for evidence in the physical world to support the Bible's teachings. One fairly recent piece of evidence proposed by some creationists can be found near the Paluxy River in Texas. Certain individuals believe they have found human footprints mixed in or overlapping dinosaur footprints, among other evidence of human existence at the same time as dinosaurs. This evidence differs from a natural clock in that it does not attempt to create its own date for the dawn of man, but rather it is used to discredit the accepted geologic history in which man and dinosaur are not even close to cohabitating.

According to modern paleoanthropologists, the hominid lineage split away from other ape lineages about six million years ago in Africa. Before the appearance of Homo Sapiens there were various other hominid species which gradually evolved and spread from Africa into Asia. Several species were extant at the same time, which suggests that they competed with each other for food and other resources. In fact, some species probably competed with others to the point that they were driven to extinction. Despite the common belief that Homo neanderthalenis was the early version of present day humans, Neanderthals are actually considered a different species that shared a common direct ancestor with Homo ergaster, which shares a common ancestor with Homo erectus. Homo sapiens replaced Homo erectus about 200,000 years ago according to Purves et al.

Over the years, creationists have reported various pieces of evidence in the Earth that contradict the fossil record. Seemingly manmade objects have been reported in rocks which, according to geologists, would not have been available to man. To some people, this evidence debunks the entire accepted scientific dating system. The most famous piece of such evidence is the supposed human tracks in the limestone bed of the Paluxy River in Texas. The Paluxy River is known for its large number of dinosaur footprints, but some people believe that tracks from human beings are intermingled with the dinosaur footprints, which would mean that humans and dinosaurs were on the planet at the same time. Creationists have also proposed that human tracks can be found inside some of the dinosaur footprints. The below picture of a supposed human footprint discovered near the Paluxy River is taken from Texas Tracks and Artifacts by Robert F. Helfinstine and Jerry D. Roth, page 35.

supposed human footprint

John C. Whitcomb and Henry M. Morris write of the tracks in their book The Genesis Flood. They use the tracks as evidence that man and dinosaurs coexisted. In a caption under a photograph of a dinosaur footprint next to what they contend to be a human footprint they state, "Geologists have rejected this evidence [...] preferring to believe that the human footprints were carved by some modern artist, while at the same time accepting the dinosaur prints as genuine. If anything, the dinosaur prints look more 'artificial' than the human, but the genuineness of neither would be questioned at all were it not for the geologically sacrosanct evolutionary time-scale" (Morris and Whitcomb 1960: 174).

In the same area as the supposed tracks, what appeared to be a human tooth was found in 1987. The object was identified by a dentist as a child's right central incisor. Although it was slightly larger than most human teeth, it was within the expected size range of a typical modern day human tooth. Two separate dentists later agreed with the identification of the object as a human tooth by looking at photographs of it. Two other supposed human teeth were found downstream from the first tooth. These teeth also lay within the normal size range of human teeth (Helfinstine and Roth 1994: 27).

What is reported to be a fossilized finger has also been found near the Paluxy River. Photographs of the object (below) reveal that it does indeed have the same shape and size of a human index finger (Helfinstine and Roth 1994: 30).

supposed human finger

Although the evidence found by creationists may seem groundbreaking at first glance, it has not stood up to scientific scrutiny. Scientists have discovered that many of the supposed human tracks are in fact "natural irregularities and erosional features of the substrate [...] elongate, metatarsal dinosaur tracks...made by dinosaurs that, at least at times, impressed their soles and heels as they walked" (Kuban 1992). Often the toe marks of the dinosaur tracks are somewhat filled in, causing them to resemble very large human footprints. When the filling sediment is removed the tracks are clearly made by a three-toed dinosaur. Kuban goes on to write that "Recent claims that some of these tracks have human prints within them have been shown to be as baseless as the original claims" (Kuban 1992).

The color of the elongate dinosaur tracks often differs from that of the surrounding limestone. This color spreads out not only where the imprints can be clearly seen but also out into the less visible digit marks. According to Kuban, this shows that the tracks appear to be of human origin because of secondary sediment that has filled in the tracks. Now that the color of the new material is beginning to change, the original shape of the tracks is becoming more obvious. This, combined with features in the tracks that do not agree with human footprints, such as anterior splaying visible even when the tracks were first discovered, proves that the tracks in the Paluxy River are completely of dinosaurian origin (Kuban 1992).

The resounding evidence against the human footprints has caused even most creationists to admit that the tracks are of dinosaurs, not humans. John Morris investigated the "human" tracks in the Paluxy River during 1970's and published a book arguing that the tracks were indeed humanoid. Morris, who is now the leader of the Institute for Creation Research, later recanted his assertion after visiting the Paluxy sights with Glen Kuban. The Institute for Creation Research admitted, in its Impact article #151, "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" (Morris). The group Films for Christ, who released a movie entitled Footprints in Stone which toted the "human" tracks as valid, had a representative present for the meeting with Kuban, and shortly after they took this film out of circulation (Kuban 1992).

Sources:
  1. Helfinstine, Robert F., and Roth, Jerry D. 1994. Texas Tracks and Artifacts.
  2. Kuban, Glen J. 1992. Man Tracks? A Summary of the Paluxy "Man Track" Controversy. http://talkorigins.org/faqs/paluxy/mantrack.html. Accessed: Oct. 16, 2005.
  3. Morris, John. The Paluxy River Mystery. The Institute for Creation Research. http://www.icr.org/index.php?module=articles&action=view&ID=255. Accessed: Oct. 23, 2005.
  4. Whitcomb, John C., and Morris, Henry M. 1960. The Genesis Flood. P & R Publishing.