Runner-up idiotic creationist claim
Well, I had to think long and hard to come up with the last two creationist stupid ideas. There have been some strong candidates (dinosaurs swimming in the flood--see comments to yesterday's post). I was looking for the really insane ideas and I hope creationists everywhere will forgive me if I failed to mention your favorite creationist stupid idea. Here are two that make me laugh every single time I hear/read them.
1. Out of place human artifacts- These cross the line from people writing about 'the mysterious origins of man' to creationists intent on demonstrating that rocks are not as old as we think. My personal favorite was the 'reel in the rock'. Apologetics Press apparently was shown this anomalous fishing reel embedded in 300+ million year old phyllite and 'discovered' in Tennessee. As apologetics press noted, there is no way that the phyllite could be millions of years old if a 100 year old fishing reel is embedded in the rock. They did not bother to think to much as to how a reel got into a metamorphic rock! Here is what apologetics press had to say about it
For those who would evaluate such evidence with an open mind, here are the facts. It was 1897 when William Shakespeare Jr. patented the first fishing reel. That, by definition, would limit the age of this reel to roughly 100 years. Yet this rock, which weighs close to 20 pounds, is considered by evolutionary timescales to be roughly 300 million years old. Ann Holmes, of the geology department at the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga, stated: "It's called phyllite. It's a metamorphic rock from the Appalachians, the Brevard Zone that was formed probably when Africa and America collided about 300 million years ago" (as quoted in Simms, 2003). Mr. Jones recalled that the geologists appeared very familiar with this type of rock, and he remembered being told that the rock came from the period when the continents divided. He said they informed him that the only two places where this type of rock is found is in the Appalachians and Africa. The obvious question then is: What is a 300 million-year-old rock-which is supposed to have broken off when America separated from Africa-doing in the Tellico River with a fishing reel embedded in it?
The answer? Well, it's a fake as are many of the so-called problematic artifacts (jewelry in coals, fingers fossilized etc). To be fair to apologetics press, I e-mailed them in regard to this find and also asked to look at the reel in the rock myself. They withdrew the article shortly thereafter and now it's hard to find a good image of this on the web. So here is my letter to Brad Harrub of AP:
I tried contacting you last week via the website e-mail system on your site but did not receive a response. This was disappointing because I happened to be on a field trip in Tennessee and the Tellico area. I was hoping to get a look at the reel in the rock that is touted on your website as evidence for a young earth and problematic for geologists. While I did not get to look at the reel, I was able to look at the rock type in which the reel appears to be embedded. I would like to demonstrate why the reel is not good evidence for a young earth and also to correct some scientific misinformation in your article. To be fair, I think most of these mistakes were simply the result of poor recollection on the part of the finder of the reel rather than deliberate attempts to mislead. Nevertheless, I think it is important to correct these errors of fact as side notes to your article. Let me start with the corrections and then explain why I think the reel is more of a curiosity than a scientific enigma.
(1) The collector stated that he recalled that they informed him that the only two places where this type of rock is found is in the Appalachians and Africa. This is incorrect. Phyllite is a common type of metamorphic rock found on every continent.
(2) Mr. Jones recalled that the geologists appeared very familiar with this type of rock, and he remembered being told that the rock came from the period when the continents divided. The rock formed as a result of continental collision according to evolutionary geology.
Now, here's the major problem with your story and I trust that you will do the right thing and withdraw the claim. Phyllite is a metamorphic rock and the minerals in the rock indicate (through non-controversial physics and chemistry) that the rock could have only formed under conditions where the temperatures were above 300 C and pressures were above 3-5 kbars (roughly 9-15 kilometers depth). These mineral reactions have been demonstrated in the laboratory and it is well known that the rock known as phyllite starts out as a mudstone and as it is progressively heated and buried it becomes a slate and then a phyllite. So if the reel had been embedded in the rock when it formed, then the reel would have been buried and heated causing it to be flattened as are many of the micaceous minerals in the rock. Imagine how the reel might look if it was run over by a dump truck full of granite. Yet the reel shows no deformation and no indication that it was part of the rock during the metamorphic cycle. Since I have not been able to study the rock in detail, I can only conclude that the reel became embedded in the rock after the metamorphism perhaps due to chemical reactions between dissolved minerals in the water as it sat there for many years. The alternative is that the reel was placed in the rock by someone as a practical joke. Again, this could only be verified through examination of the reel and the rock. However, it is clear from the simple physics and chemistry involved in the formation of the phyllite that it was not formed at the same time as the rock. Now, you may still assert that the earth is very young and that modern geology has the age of the earth all wrong, but this finding does nothing to help your case. I think we should be honest and forthright in the evidence we present to others. At the very least, I would hope you would be willing to publish my response to the article in question.
In writing this blog, I tried to find a good picture, but they've vanished from the web. Here's a very poor photo of the RIR:
It's late and I want to do my last 'stupid creation claim' justice so I'll put it on here sometime tommorrow.