By Stephen Young
By Stephen Young
By Stephen Young
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
"When you get involved in something as controversial as human and dinosaur coexistence, you are asking for controversy," Baugh says. "And I welcome that."
Baugh says that the single room of his museum, located off of FM 205 near Glen Rose, represents 12 years of digging, searching, writing, and lecturing, all in a quest to solve humanity's fundamental mystery: Where did we come from?
"I have always been interested in answering the questions...of life origins," Baugh says. "I wanted to know who I really was. And after a period of decades of looking into this, I found that I specifically needed to know what was in the fossil record, so I came to Glen Rose."
Baugh's real voice has the same measured tones as the one on tape. It is readily apparent that he's used to an audience or a pulpit. His ideas, while seemingly outrageous, are set forth with the utmost sincerity.
He looks like a televangelist, with a handsome face, and appears much younger than his 60 years. His eyes are kind, yet intense. His full head of black hair is brushed into a slight pompadour. Baugh was actually a preacher for many years in Illinois and is often referred to as "Reverend" in Glen Rose. But he says his time now is devoted primarily to science.
Baugh walks around the museum, talking about the exhibits that most fascinate him these days. Near the rainforest is a hyperbaric chamber converted into a biosphere, where Baugh is attempting to simulate what he believes were the conditions of the earth before the great flood of Noah. The Fiberglas chamber has a higher atmospheric pressure and greater electromagnetic field than the earth today and is bathed in a pinkish glow. Inside, a lone copperhead snake slithers in a Lucite box, empty save for a bowl of water and a single rock. The snake's only companions are fruit-fly larvae--held captive in a small vial.
While showing off his exhibits, Baugh explains that it took a near-religious experience to convert him to the cause of creation science.
He says he used to be a lukewarm creationist, a religious man who believed in the teachings of the Bible but also those of Darwin. After graduating from Abilene High School in 1955, Baugh attended Baptist Bible College in Springfield, Missouri. Baugh says it was here that he struck a compromise between his creationism and "atheistic thought"--meaning evolution.
He became a "theistic evolutionist," believing that God created the lowest life forms, then allowed evolution to take its course. "It means that there is a God superintending all the universe, but he developed man through the lower life systems in a progressive, evolutionary epoch," Baugh explains.
Baugh says he ranked at the top of his class at Baptist Bible College when he became a graduate of theology in 1959. (Graduate of theology was a three-year degree offered by the college in the 1950s. It was designed to provide missionaries and pastors with an academic and spiritual base, college officials say.) Two years later, Baugh says he earned a bachelor of arts degree via correspondence from an institution called Burton College, which he says no longer exists.
After graduation, Baugh went into the ministry. He was ordained as a Baptist Bible Fellowship minister and in 1968 founded Calvary Heights Baptist Church in East St. Louis, Illinois. Nearly a decade later, he would start a Bible college of his own, International Baptist College, also in East St. Louis. (The school was later moved to Missouri.)
During these years he arrived at yet another tepid compromise between his religious faith and scientific beliefs. It's called "progressive creationism." In this theory of man's origins, God creates everything, but takes his good-natured time in doing so.
"He created new life forms that were higher in nature than the predecessor," Baugh says. This way, it might appear that evolution was taking place, but in reality, God was merely revising and adding to his creation.
Baugh admits this theory was a bit of a reach. "I could not deny there was a God, but I still held on to evolution," he says.
Then he heard about Glen Rose.
The town of 2,000 southwest of Fort Worth had already become the chief battleground between creationists and evolutionary skeptics. For decades, rumors of mingled human and dinosaur tracks had swirled about the area. The rumors apparently were fueled by carvings of human footprints made during the Depression that were sold at roadside trading posts. The carvings supposedly were replicas of fossil footprints found in the area.
Creationists began examining the Glen Rose area in earnest in the latter part of the 1960s, when creation scientists noticed some unusually shaped dinosaur tracks along the Paluxy River. Their findings were later popularized in Christian circles by a film called Footprints in Stone, which claimed that human fossil footprints had been found alongside dinosaur tracks.
Baugh says his interest in Glen Rose was revived through the film, which he saw in the early 1980s. What he heard was enough to convince him that if any answers existed to the questions gnawing at his soul, they lay in Texas.