Do Rich Creationists Deserve the Awesome Fossil?

Everyone agrees on one thing: It’s an awesome fossil.

Image source: Answers In Genesis

Image source: Answers In Genesis

So awesome, mainstream scientists complain, it shouldn’t be used to preach the anti-science on tap in Answers In Genesis’ Creation Museum.

Not so fast, creationists retort.  They insist the rare fossil helps make the scientific case for a young earth and a real global flood.

According to a news release from the young-earth creationist ministry Answers In Genesis, a wealthy benefactor donated the half-million-dollar Allosaurus skull fossil to the Creation Museum.  That benefactor wanted the fossil to be used to help make the case for Biblical young-earth creationism.

The skull will be prominently displayed in the Creation Museum.  AIG scientist Andrew Snelling claims that the skull helps prove the historicity of Noah’s global flood.  Since the skull was so well preserved, Snelling argues, it proves an extremely rapid burial, which fits with a catastrophic flood.

Mainstream scientists complain that the skull should reside elsewhere.  Happy Atheist PZ Myers, for example, laments the fact that such a priceless scientific find should be “locked up in a non-research institution and used to gull the rubes.”

In an Associated Press report, Kentucky paleontologist Dan Phelps worried that the Creation Museum would not let mainstream scientists use the skull for research.

This mainstream complaint raises an interesting question: Would mainstream paleontologists conduct research on the skull, even if they were invited?  After all, the presence of scientists from non-creationist research institutions would be a huge boost for AIG’s claims to be a legitimate scientific institution.

Would any mainstream scientists agree to work at the Creation Museum?



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  1. Solution: Trade fossil for piece of the Authentic Cross.

  2. Unless they’re examining a specific find in particular, most scientists won’t deal with many of the real fossils themselves. Instead they’ll rely on published data about other fossils, or examine replicas. That way they can analyse every Allosaur ever for their research without having to travel all over the world to do it.

    You might think this makes AiGs acquisition of a fossil not a big deal. After all, not everyone interested in Allosaurs will be going after it. In reality it makes it worse, since now the onus is on them to publish the relevant data so it can be included in future research. Any failure harms every palaeontologist interested in the species, rather than the few who might be denied direct access to the skull.

    All AiG has to do is write a paper describing the fossil, listing key measurements and comparing it existing ones. I think it will be a real test of the “science” of AiG whether or not they can manage that.

    • Thanks, Adam. I don’t know diddly about how paleontologists work. Here’s a follow-up question for you: Will it lend scientific credibility to the Creation Museum to have those findings published in a mainstream peer-reviewed scientific journal? Will mainstream scientists need to cite creation scientists as reputable sources?

      • If they got the data published it would show they’re not incompetent. Given how poorly many scientists view creationists I think this would give a boost to their credibility, but it would be incredibly minor. Demonstrating you can measure a skull and string a technical sentence together is the first step on a very, very long road to being taken seriously.

        I’m a palaeoanthropologist rather than a palaeontologist, so I’m not sure if things work exactly the same with dinosaurs (but I think so). Generally what happens with human fossils is that all the measurements of a fossil are published and then any interesting ones are picked out and analysed in a subsequent paper (or data-mined by a subsequent paper looking at all scapulas in the literature or whatever). It’s this second set of analyses papers that get all the attention, so most scientists wouldn’t be citing AiG itself but the guy who looked at AiG’s data and said “this is interesting”. Nonetheless, their data would be included in academia, even if it was hidden inside some other papers.

        If they could get it published, I’d be interested to see how it feeds into the “evolutionists won’t publish creation papers” trope. Would it show that the bias against them is imagined, or would they complain that they can only get published by omitting creationism and just describing data? Could they even stop talking about God long enough to do that?

  3. Ham responds to Phelps and inadvertently to part of the Laats/Benton discussion here:

    • I’m rather suspicious of the fact that when challenged about what plans they have for palaeotological research they point to their track record of geological research. Whilst not exactly an unrelated field, I think they should be pointing to all of the research they’ve previously done on their “extensive fossil collection” and perhaps reference any plans for research involving the new skull.

      Both are suspiciously absent.

    • Mr. Benton, why is AiG under obligation to perform and/or publish research on their fossils?

      • @ChazIng, Don’t you think that AIG wants to be seen as a “legitimate” scientific organization? If so, I would think that AIG would be extremely eager to publish research that would be accepted in mainstream peer-reviewed journals and conferences. I don’t see it as an exterally imposed obligation, but rather a primary goal of AIG.

      • Dr. Laats, as far as I can tell, AiG does not fully subscribe to said definition of legitimate nor are they particularly eager to establish such by means you consider legitimate. It seems you are assuming that they are going to play by ‘your’ rules when they are quite aware that the game is rigged and they have failed repeatedly at gaining scientific validity through the law.

        Even if they were to publish in ‘mainstream peer-reviewed’ journals, that would not aid their cause but devour even more time and finances spent on speculative macro-evolutionary theology. To that end, why not contact AiG yourself and ask for more information or an email interview?

      • ChazIng, But it is not just my assumption that AIG wants to prove its mainstream scientific credibility. AIG itself insists up on it.

      • Dr. Laats, did they say they would employ your so-called mainstream methodology? And where did they insist on “mainstream scientific credibility.” Doing research does not have to be mainstream or mainstream credible.

      • As a private organisation they’re not under any obligations to do any research. However, one could argue that they’re wasting a valuable resource by not conducting such research or making it available to other scientists.

        Now, Answers in Genesis could’ve responded to this argument by simply going “so what, we think drawing attention to our museum is use enough. We don’t care about research, we’re all about outreach.” But they didn’t. They’re claiming they are actually a legit research organisation and so the fact they have a shiny new skull isn’t a big deal. The world isn’t being deprived of some great treasure because of this. In other words, they created their own obligation to do research.

        However, their responses to these criticism leave a fair bit to be desired. I’m not aware of any plans they’ve made to study the skull, any attempts to hire new staff that are specialised in this sort of thing or calls out for other researchers to come investigate it. They’ve made no grant applications, or even set aside funding of their own. They could pay for a >$20 million museum, surely they could set aside a few hundred thousand to lure a top creation scientist to their institution to begin studying the skull. And when confronted they point to the track record of one bloke working in a different field.

        Of course, they may be trying to keep it all secret until the data is published. Ultimately, as I said in my first comment on this post, how AiG uses this skull we be the real test of just how interested in research they really are. In the mean time I don’t think they’ve done nearly enough to assuage my skepticism.

      • Mr. Benton, Answers Research Journal (ARJ) is where they publish their research. What you think of their research is another issue. To claim that they created an ‘obligation to do research’ is a tortured argument. Your claim in itself is demanding that they focus their research on what you deem worthy else they would invalidate the claim to be a research organization. If you feel so strongly about the fossil in question, the first step would be to email their museum. Have you done so?

      • The Answers Research Journal is where AiG’s research is published, but most of the articles in the ARJ aren’t actually from them. In fact, only 2 of the authors who’ve been published in the ARJ this year are from Answers in Genesis. This would suggest that research is far from the priority Ken Ham and AiG claims it is, and another reason I’m skeptical they’ll do anything with the Allosaur.

        Answers in Genesis responded to concerns they weren’t going to do research with their new skull by saying they have an active research division; which to me creates the implication that they’re going to be doing some research involving the skull. If you don’t think that’s the case then there’s not much I can say on the matter, since we’re talking about personal takes on a statement.

        However, if they do wind up doing nothing with it then they will have confirmed that, despite their claims to the contrary, they aren’t that interested in doing real research.

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