Footprints of Fantasy
They come here for evidence, pilgrims searching for proof. The soul-searching ends at Dr. Carl Baugh's tiny Creation Evidences Museum, housed in a doublewide trailer alongside the highway near Glen Rose.
The truth is laid out plainly here in a single murky room. To the right is a diorama featuring a lone plastic dinosaur--a green Tyrannosaurus rex-type creature--which looms, teeth bared, near a caveman family as dad, mom, and child scurry to safety.
In front is a rainforest fashioned from fake plants and ornamented with tiny red and yellow plastic parrots. Fossils and assorted rocks are arranged haphazardly against the walls.
Then there's Dr. Baugh's most spectacular find: a replica of a chunk of riverbed, dug up nearby on the Paluxy River, that bears the imprint of what he claims are side-by-side human and dinosaur tracks.
All of this leads to an inescapable conclusion, which Dr. Baugh provides through a somewhat crude multimedia presentation.
Only three people have shown up to hear it this day, and they're spread out among six rows of vinyl-covered chairs in the center of the room. They listen intently to a disembodied male voice explaining the origins of the universe.
"The first cause...is an omniscient intelligence," the voice says in soothing, modulated tones. "Therefore it is the God of the Bible. Notice he is carrying the earth near his heart."
Just then, a small track light illuminates a 40-foot, air-brushed mural covering the entire wall to the left. The audience of three peers at a vague outline of a male figure with a glowing orb floating in his chest region--near where his heart should be.
There are 10 different earths in a sequence along the mural. Each represents a different phase in the world's development as chronicled in the Bible and as postulated through the scientific research of Dr. Baugh, who says he holds a doctoral degree in education and a master's in archaeology.
The presentation culminates in a sales pitch. A spotlight falls on stacks of books and videotapes. Baugh's voice urges visitors to look over the books, especially the video series that goes into greater detail about "Creation in Symphony," Baugh's theory on human origins.
Baugh is a bit apologetic about the condition of the museum. He admits it looks like "a back room at the Smithsonian." But these meager environs shouldn't detract in any way from his message. All around, he says, is proof that man and dinosaur coexisted--evidence that explodes the myth of man's evolution once and for all.
"Leading evolutionary scholars have admitted that if we could prove that man and dinosaur existed contemporaneously, that would destroy the entire theory of evolution," Baugh explains. "I have that evidence."
And Baugh isn't shy about touting it. Since his first discovery of alleged human footprints along the banks of the Paluxy River in 1982, Baugh has kept close contact with the media, granting dozens of interviews to crow about his findings. He's also self-published several books and videos detailing his research and theories, and lectures extensively on creation science to anyone who will have him.
Lately, Baugh's Creation Evidences Museum has benefited from a new wave of interest. Creation science is once again a hot topic, aided by the recent publication of a nonreligious book challenging evolution on biochemical grounds (Darwin's Black Box) and the Pope's admission that one can believe in evolution and still remain true to Roman Catholicism.
Both religious and secular media from all over the world are calling on Baugh to explain the scientific basis for creation. He's appeared on several television shows to talk about the origins of humanity, including NBC's Mysterious Origins of Man and numerous Trinity Broadcasting Network chat shows. All of the exposure has made him the most visible spokesman for the creation science movement--and the seeming answer to creationists' prayers. Here, after all, is a man with a solid scholarly background, holding a doctoral degree in education and a master's in archaeology. Add to that his articulacy and his ability to take on a hostile media and scientific community, and you have a profile of the man creationists have been searching for to lend some respectability to their much-maligned science.
But while Baugh is garnering international media attention, another story is playing out behind the scenes. A handful of his fellow creation scientists have broken ranks with him and have called his research into question. Far from debunking the myth of man's evolution, Baugh has misinterpreted his evidence, they say--and is, in fact, a myth himself. They say he's fabricated his own credentials, horribly botched a major dinosaur dig, and claimed credit for archaeological discoveries he did not make. He has stretched the "evidence" to perpetuate his own version of the truth, much to the chagrin of fellow creationists.
Such criticism is highly unusual coming from the evangelical and fundamentalist Christians who make up the ranks of creationists. But Baugh's grandiose claims have forced them to speak out. In the words of Answers in Genesis, an Australia-based creationist group, Baugh has "muddied the water for many Christians...People are being misled."
To Baugh himself, the accusations are merely confirmation that his path is a righteous one. The Baptist minister says his attackers are jealous, desperate people with personal vendettas against him.
"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.
In 1982, Baugh made his first pilgrimage to Glen Rose. He says that he and a group of scientists and lay people began doing their own excavations on private property along the Paluxy. Baugh directed the group as they removed shelves of limestone from along the river banks. They found a series of dinosaur tracks, which they followed for a few days. Baugh says it was rough going.
"The footprints were en situ," Baugh says, carefully spelling out the word, though incorrectly. "It's a Latin term meaning the original context. This is very important, because there can be various impressions in rock that can have various origins. En situ excavation does not simply interpret what is on the surface, which might be opened to contamination, but it removes a shelf layer of rock and then examines what is underneath in the undisturbed context."
The method of in situ excavation is sound, even if Baugh's spelling is not. If the focus of the investigation is to make casts and photographs of tracks, in situ excavation is one of the best ways to go about it, says Dr. Ernest Lundelius, a professor of geology at the University of Texas-Austin.
Baugh's team spent about a week on the river bed, digging up dinosaur tracks and covering nearly 100 feet of ground. Baugh says he wanted to stop the excavation three times. He hadn't come across anything remotely connected with humanity. But each time, his team pushed him on, he says.
Then he found it. Baugh and his assistants had uncovered one last slab of rock. Baugh says he was carrying out the delicate task of cleaning away gunk and debris when he realized he was looking at a perfect human footprint. The discovery transformed Baugh in one day from a lukewarm "theist" to a boiling hot creationist, he says.
"It blew my mind. My explanation for my origins had been blown. If man and dinosaur had existed contemporaneously in the fossil record, that meant that the whole fossil record had to be recent in origin," he says. "I had to examine my own philosophical posture. That was traumatic. It was exhilarating, but traumatic."
But Baugh wasn't too overcome with excitement to see opportunity. He immediately called a press conference, asking reporters to come watch as he and his team excavated more human and dinosaur tracks. Hordes of the devout and skeptical came to view the finds. In pictures, documented in his book Dinosaur: Scientific Evidence that Dinosaurs and Men Walked Together, Baugh shows the footprints uncovered right in front of the media. The photos depict a series of elongated, mud-filled blobs.
Baugh and his team took photographs and made casts and drawings of the footprints. The controversial find brought the fledgling creationist a certain amount of renown. "They set up eddy tides of disturbance worldwide," Baugh boasts. "For instance, people at Harvard, Yale, UCLA--they know who I am. And most of them don't like me too well.
"But that doesn't bother me in the least," he adds. "I am not in a popularity contest. I am in a search for the truth."
The footprints also left an indelible stamp on Baugh. He had never intended to stay in Glen Rose permanently and had planned to return to the Midwest to run his small Bible college. But the footprints put him on a different path, and he realized his future lay in Glen Rose. So in 1985, he pulled up stakes and moved from Missouri to Texas.
"It was obvious I couldn't forget it," Baugh says of his life-changing discovery. "I realized that someone had to follow the course to its logical conclusion. So rather than ask someone else to pay the price, I knew that I must."
A few months after moving to Glen Rose, Baugh set up the Creation Evidences Museum in a 110-year-old log cabin. "Evidence Here!" proclaimed the museum's hand-painted sign, which depicted man and dinosaur cavorting in Flintstonian harmony. The museum showed off the growing body of evidence Baugh and other creationists were digging up in the Glen Rose area, and it also served as a place where "scholarly and academic work could be conducted," Baugh says.
The museum grew steadily. Baugh moved it from the log cabin to the doublewide trailer three years ago, though it's still far too small to handle all of the items he's collected. The sign is still there, as is a large cylindrical tube beside the trailer. This, Baugh says, will eventually become a biosphere big enough to accommodate plants as well as small mammals. Baugh first mentioned the project in a Dallas Morning News story in 1986. The tube still sits today, empty and rusting.
Baugh's homespun museum is the physical and philosophical opposite of the state's take on the dinosaur tale. Dinosaur Valley State Park was opened in the 1960s to preserve and showcase the dinosaur tracks being uncovered along the Paluxy. The park, which sits about a mile down the road from Baugh's museum, covers more than 1,000 acres and includes campgrounds, hiking trails, and places to walk among the dinosaur tracks on the riverbed.
Park Ranger Billy Baker, who has been with the park since 1980, says that since Baugh opened his museum, "People come into the park looking for so-called human footprints. But we haven't got them. And they think we are hiding them from them."
Baker lets out a hearty sigh. He's a good-sized man, with a ruddy hue from years of outdoor living. Every time Baugh or his associates make a new claim, the rangers brace themselves for another round of questions and accusations.
"We just tell people like it is," Baker says. "I don't want to cover up anything. Why should I?"
Baugh says he set up his museum where he did precisely because it would cause people to question the state park's version of prehistory.
The nonprofit museum clearly is a shoestring operation. There are only two paid, permanent staff members: Baugh's brother-in-law, who acts as groundskeeper, and Baugh's sister, who manages the office. Baugh says he usually draws no salary, living instead on proceeds from speaking engagements. The modest admission fee--$2 for adults, $5 for families--barely covers the electric bill, he says. Last year, the museum brought in $225,000, most of which was used to pay for equipment in the small biosphere, Baugh says.
The museum is making a difference, he adds. It provides the public with an alternative view of life's origins--one that is more hopeful, less determined by chance.
"There is an awareness of the bankruptcy of evolution," Baugh says. "Evolution just does not work, and academics are having to face this. The closer we look at living systems, the more evident there is a design."
While Creationism hasn't attained its goal of respectability, at least it is no longer the sole province of Christian zealots who view the fossil record as a test of faith in God.
The field of creation science is now dominated by actual scientists--highly credentialed men and women who vary in degrees and expertise but are united in their belief in a universal designer.
Theirs is a hopeful theory. It implies that there is purpose to each and every life. Evolution, premised on random acts causing adaptive changes over billions of years, is not. An evolutionist sees the world's orderliness as a happy accident. Given another run at the probabilities, the earth could have ended up just as barren as the moon or Mars.
True creation scientists have always stressed their science over their faith, says Dr. Henry Morris, founder of the Institute for Creation Research in California. Morris is considered the father of modern creation science. In the past, he says, religious beliefs often served as the basis for scientific theory. He'd encounter lay people touting all kinds of theories derived from shoddy science. Not surprisingly, established scientists ate them alive. But that has changed, Morris says.
"We prefer to think of ourselves as scientists who believe in creation," he says.
Most modern creationists can be divided into two groups. The most literal strain is the young earth group, which looks at the Bible as a source document and tries to find evidence of a world created by God in six days, only thousands of years ago. The other group is old earthers--like Baugh when he considered himself a "lukewarm creationist"--people who accept evolutionary premises about the age of the earth, but believe it was all set in motion by a grand designer.
The great majority of scientists who adhere to evolution theory dismiss both groups. "I don't think any reputable scientists endorse this," says Dr. Lundelius of UT. "You will get those who call themselves creation scientists, but I happen to think they are wrong."
Creationists have had a dash at respectability this year, however, with a spate of recent articles about them in national newspapers and magazines. Michael Behe, a biochemist from Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, published a book this year theorizing that, on a biochemical level, life systems had to be designed. There is no way the components necessary for life to exist could have evolved, he argued, because they cannot work without each other.
Behe, who falls on the "old earth" side of the creationists' continuum, holds to a long geological age for earth. He says reaction from his scientific colleagues to Darwin's Black Box has been mixed.
"When you get into the kind of rock-bottom issues of science, like the big bang and how the earth got here and life started, then philosophy plays a very big part in deciding what is acceptable," he says.
These days, scientific credentials hold tremendous importance for creation scientists. They appear to be a talisman pointing magically toward that elusive goal of respectability. Morris boasts that all of the 40 or so instructors at the Institute for Creation Research have either doctoral or master's degrees in scientific fields from recognized universities.
At the Creation Research Society, a three-decades-old organization for creation scientists based in Ohio, voting members have to hold at least a master's degree in a recognized area of science. The society's president, Emmett Williams, who has a Ph.D. in materials engineering from Virginia Tech, says this restriction keeps the organization from being unduly influenced by amateurs.
"It is a scientific society," Williams says proudly. "We did not want it to get into the hands of theologians or people who are interested in wanting to press for big issues."
Creationists play the credentials game because they've been forced to, says Jim Cooke, a geologist for Mobil Oil in Dallas who describes himself as a creationist (his credential: a master's in geology from Tulane University). "The evolutionists, in the early part of the debates, would say, 'You don't have a Ph.D.--what do you know?' So now creationists play the credentials game too," he says. "Now perhaps we can get past that and talk about the evidence."
But with Dr. Carl Baugh, both credentials and evidence are at the heart of his controversy. And those credentials are a slippery thing, having evolved several times in recent years.
Only one thing about Baugh's academic history can be established with any certainty: In 1959, he earned a three-year "graduate of theology" degree from then-unaccredited Baptist Bible College in Springfield, Missouri. The rest of his purported academic credentials appear to be flimsy correspondence-course degrees, and even these have changed between books and articles written by Baugh.
On his resume, Baugh claims he earned a bachelor of arts degree from Burton College in 1961. During an interview, Baugh said the school is an "adjunct" of a college in Australia--a college he admits no longer exists.
Baugh also lists a master's in archaeology, earned in 1984, and a doctoral degree in education, conferred in 1989, both from Pacific College of Graduate Studies in Melbourne, Australia. Baugh, who admits he's never even been to Australia, says he obtained the degrees through correspondence courses. He says the college was founded in 1980 by Dr. Clifford Wilson, a creation scientist who Baugh says is the former head of something called the "Australian Institute of Archaeology." He and Baugh have worked together on at least two books since first meeting in 1982 in Glen Rose. Baugh displays a copy of his diploma as well as his doctoral dissertation on the Internet (http://www.texoma.com/linesden/cem/). The diploma indicates that Pacific College of Graduate Studies has locations in both Melbourne and Poplar Bluff, Missouri.
Baugh also claims that the school is accredited in Australia. He says he used to keep a copy of the college's accreditation papers on the Internet, along with his diploma, but was told by school officials to remove the accreditation document because it was an internal school record, not intended for public distribution.
"I don't know if they are currently accredited, but they forwarded me papers that they are accredited," Baugh says. "It certainly was accredited. But you know how schools go in and out of accreditation. The degrees I received were listed by the state as accredited programs at the school."
Baugh says he realizes that obtaining advanced degrees via correspondence seems dubious, but that it was the best way for him to continue with his research as well as obtain the scientific credentials he needed. "When you have the truth, you don't sacrifice it," he says.
Exaggeration, however, appears to be OK.
Pacific College of Graduate Studies has no authority to grant advanced degrees in Australia, says Robert Smith, executive director of the Australian Education Office in Washington, D.C. Only 38 universities in Australia are authorized to grant undergraduate and graduate degrees, Smith says. Pacific College of Graduate Studies isn't one of them.
Smith adds that Australia has no accreditation system as such. What the government grants are sanctions allowing a school to operate as a university and confer degrees. Australia has plenty of unsanctioned religious colleges, Smith says, but their degrees are only recognized in the sphere of religion.
Back in the United States, Pacific College of Graduate Studies is similarly unrecognized. An official of the Missouri Coordinating Board for Higher Education says the school has no standing in his state. Leroy Wade, senior associate for the board, adds, though, that his office received an application for standing from the college just two weeks ago.
"We didn't even know they existed," Wade says. The school is applying for an exemption from accreditation on the grounds that it is a religious school, he adds.
Baugh's mentor, Dr. Clifford Wilson, tells yet another story. He says Pacific College of Graduate Studies is in the process of applying for accreditation. He seems perturbed by the questions about the school and Baugh's credentials.
"Dr. Carl Baugh doesn't need all that that has gone on with attacking him and all," Wilson told the Observer. "And I don't want to be part of that." He then abruptly ended the telephone conversation.
It is, indeed, hard to keep up with Baugh's degrees, because they keep changing. On the resume he provided to the Observer, Baugh claims only two advanced degrees. But in previous books he's written, Baugh has listed as many as three advanced degrees--including two doctorates. In Dinosaur, published in 1987, Baugh claimed to hold doctoral degrees in both education and anthropology.
Baugh now admits that the anthropology degree came from an unaccredited school that no longer exists--the "College of Advanced Education" in Irving, Texas. He says he "subordinated" that degree when he obtained his Ph.D. from Pacific College of Graduate Studies, and "therefore that degree does not exist because the school does not exist."
Yet Baugh claimed the invalid anthropology degree again in 1992 in his book Footprints in the Stones of Time. And following his logic, Baugh would have to discount his own bachelor's degree, since Burton College no longer exists either. It appears that degrees exist for Baugh when he wants them to.
There's no crime in not holding a scientific degree. But Baugh has based much of his claim to scientific authority on his credentials. "You must be qualified to be taken seriously," he told the Observer. "You need degrees in the area that it applies."
If those credentials are false, what can be said about the authenticity of Baugh's scientific findings? Not much, it turns out.
Since his initial discovery in 1982 of the alleged human footprints mingled with dinosaur tracks, Baugh has steadily built a reputation in creationist circles through his ability to discover ever-more-spectacular "evidences." Yet scientists from both the creationist and secular camps have examined the foundations of Baugh's research and found them made of sand.
Since 1982, Baugh says he's found more than 50 man tracks in different areas along the Paluxy River. He calls them by the names of the properties on which they were found or the people who found them: Taylor Tracks, McFall Tracks, Clark Tracks, and so on. He has produced books, pamphlets, and videotapes chronicling his research. His finds have also had the backing of some of the top creationist groups, including Morris' Institute for Creation Research.
Dr. M.E. Clark, professor emeritus of theoretical and applied mechanics at the University of Illinois, accompanied Baugh on many of his digs. He says Baugh's claims are legitimate, having seen firsthand the evidence he uncovered.
"I saw it with my own eyes," Clark says of the footprints. "When we went along the Taylor trail, we took extensive photographs. My feet were used as models." (Clark wears a size 13.)
But many of these fossil footprints were later shown to be filled-in dinosaur tracks. Glen Kuban, a computer programmer from Ohio and an amateur paleontologist who's known in dinosaur circles as an expert on tracks, has researched human and dinosaur track claims, including Baugh's, since 1980. Kuban, a creationist, says he wanted to study the tracks to determine if they were really human--and if not, what other creature made them.
"I am a Christian, but I didn't know what to make of these things," he says.
He noticed one year--when the Paluxy River's water level was particularly low--some discoloration near the toe area of the alleged human tracks. Those discolorations matched the claw prints of a three-toed dinosaur, Kuban says. He soon concluded that most of the alleged human tracks in the Taylor area were in reality those of dinosaurs.
Kuban presented his findings in 1986 in a paper he presented at the International Conference on Dinosaur Tracks in New Mexico, and also published them in a newsletter called Creation/Evolution. In the paper, Kuban says the discoloration indicates an infilling of part of the dinosaur tracks with another sort of material. The tracks were elongated because two-legged, three-toed dinosaurs didn't always walk on their toes. Sometimes, they placed their full weight on the soles of their feet, hence the long footprints with a heavy heel emphasis.
"I have concluded that no genuine human tracks have been found in the Paluxy River bed," Kuban wrote.
Around the same time, Ron Hastings, a physics teacher from Waxahachie and an ardent evolutionist who has spent much of his time trying to keep creation science out of the public schools, was also exploring the alleged human tracks. He, too, noticed the discolorations. When he and Kuban met, they both decided to set aside their philosophical beliefs and examine the facts. He believes they did.
"Our preconceptions have nothing to do with our scientific conclusions," Hastings says. "A lot of people want to make this a big clash between creation and evolution. It isn't. It's about the way you do science."
Kuban's research was widely regarded by both creationists and evolutionists as accurate and scientifically sound. Creation groups that had once backed Baugh's claim that the tracks were undeniably human backtracked. Even Baugh admits he was wrong about some of the tracks.
"I was one of the first to see what he [Kuban] had found," Baugh says. "And I called my colleagues and told them there were problems with the Taylor tracks. I told them they were dinosaurian. I was the first to acknowledge it."
That's not what Kuban recalls, however. He doesn't remember Baugh making any admission that he was wrong until Morris and other prominent creationists affirmed Kuban's work.
"He kept saying publicly that they were human tracks," Kuban says.
And Baugh was still able to salvage some of his man tracks by devising a new theory. Using the same idea of discoloration, he and geologist Don Patton pumped a section of the alleged man tracks dry and made their own discovery: human footprints inside the dinosaur tracks.
"They were so clear," Baugh says. "One was about 11 1/2 inches in length, and the other, which was also distinct, was smaller. It was a child's foot."
Baugh points to a cast that he made of one of the human footprints-turned-dinosaur tracks. Only when Baugh points out the dinosaur features does one recognize anything other than a somewhat shapeless depression. With a little guidance from Baugh, one can see something resembling a human footprint, with five dents for toes and a heavy heel imprint.
"In all these tracks or to the sides of the track are these secondary impressions, which are quite distinct," Baugh says. "You can tell a man has stepped there."
The scientific community isn't buying it.
"I don't think any reputable scientist would claim that [those impressions] are anything remotely resembling human tracks, except in a superficial way," says Lundelius, who is familiar with Baugh and his claims. "In many cases, you are looking at something that dinosaurs made."
Baugh's scientific claims extend well beyond findings of fossil tracks. He lists several other projects on his resume, including dinosaur digs, archaeological excavations, and the search for Noah's ark. Not surprisingly, several of these endeavors have landed Baugh in controversy. Others are challenged by traditional scientists.
One such project is his biosphere, which he boasts has even caught the attention of NASA. (Baugh lectured on the biosphere in late 1995 at an engineering colloquium at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.)
The biosphere is Baugh's attempt to re-create the earth's conditions before the great flood of Noah. Before the deluge, the earth's atmosphere was 10 percent smaller and more dense, and contained greater quantities of oxygen and carbon dioxide, Baugh says. The electromagnetic field surrounding the earth was stronger, helping to filter out cosmic impurities, and bathed the earth in a healthy pink glow. In these conditions, he says, living things could live up to their "optimal genetic expression," meaning they grew bigger and lived longer.
In his tiny biosphere at the Creation Evidences Museum, Baugh says he's extended the life span of fruit flies by three times. Also in the biosphere is a lone copperhead snake. Within a month of landing in the biosphere, the molecular structure of the snake's venom changed from the usual globular design to a honeycomb shape, Baugh says. He couldn't say what that means for the snake.
"The venom is closer to serum," Baugh explains vaguely. "Snakes are designed to vaccinate."
Baugh adds that the electromagnetic field has even increased the size of two pacu piranhas located within 10 feet of the biosphere. In 18 months, the two fish have grown from guppy size to 17 inches, he says.
None of these experiments has been subjected to rigorous scientific scrutiny, Baugh acknowledges. Yet in his recorded presentation at the museum, they are recited as fact.
There are other explanations for these phenomena. Pacus are known to grow very rapidly, says Steve Bailey, curator for fish at the New England Aquarium in Boston. They'll grow as large as you let them, he adds.
"The pacu is the equivalent of cattle," Bailey says. "You can fatten these things up and get an enormous amount of growth in a short time. If I had $1 for every phone call I've received from some hobbyist who bought pacu and were outraged that they had the audacity to outgrow the tank, I could quit my job."
Baugh's snake theories sounded dubious to Dr. Jonathan Campbell, a herpetologist and professor of biology at the University of Texas at Arlington. Snake venom is highly complicated in structure, differing not only among species but among individual snakes, he says. It would take a basic understanding of biochemistry to begin to understand the changes in snake venom and if those changes can be induced through alterations in the environment.
"It is a difficult and involved procedure to know such a thing," Campbell says. "I would like to see the evidence. But in the meantime, I will retain a healthy dose of skepticism."
Baugh also claims on his resume that he excavated the remains of an "Indian princess" for the archaeology department of UT. He found "Princess Petite"--as he calls her--in 1985 in Sanderson, Texas, near the Big Bend area. She was child-size, he says, and was buried with her toys and a shawl. Baugh says he called UT and turned over the princess and her grave objects. She was carbon dated as 600 years old, he says.
Dr. Thomas Hester, director of the archaeology research lab at UT, says the only things true about this tale are the carbon dating of the remains and their original location.
"God, no," Hester says, when told about Baugh's account of the excavation. "Baugh was on UT lands and did not have permission to dig that up. It was confiscated from him by the man who leased the land, and was taken to the university."
Hester says a UT file on the dig indicates that Baugh was invited to Sanderson by a Baptist preacher who'd told him about some human remains that had been dug up on UT land by a high school football coach a few years earlier. Baugh called the university office asking for permission to look around the site, and permission was granted. Hester says Baugh was not given permission to dig, however.
Baugh then organized an excavation party that included himself, the coach, the preacher, and two church women. A rancher who leased the land from the university tagged along. Once at the site, Baugh and the others dug up the girl's remains, destroying the cave she was buried in. The rancher was so appalled that he seized the remains from them, Hester says.
There's no proof whatsoever that Baugh had dug up a princess, he adds. The girl was 8 to 12 years old and of an undetermined tribe.
Baugh, for his part, calls Hester's version of events a "lie." He insists he did have permission to excavate, with the understanding that he would turn over whatever he found to the university. He did just that, he adds.
"I did everything under the university's auspices," Baugh says.
Another one of Baugh's finds--and arguably his most significant--was that of a near-complete Acrocanthosaurus skeleton along the Paluxy River in 1984. Yet even this discovery was fraught with controversy. Baugh, deploying a team of volunteers, many from a local Baptist church, removed the top layer of rock and sand from the bones. Baugh says that only he and another man performed the actual excavation of the skeleton, which took about five years.
But Ron Hastings of Waxahachie, who was one of the few non-creationists at the dig, says Baugh used improper techniques to excavate the dinosaur, often destroying more bones than he removed. Hastings says that what he saw sickened him. Baugh's crew were placing bones directly into plaster without any preparation, he says, and in the end, the dinosaur was encased in dozens upon dozens of "balls of plaster."
"I was sick to my stomach," Hastings says. "This was priceless property. This could have refurbished his reputation. If only he would have let professionals do it."
Baugh, of course, says he is a professional. And he did ask several Texas paleontologists to come out to the site and have a look. He says they snubbed him. Dr. Wann Langston, then head of the vertebrate paleontology laboratory at UT, refused at first to visit the site because he didn't want to be associated with creationists, according to an article in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. He did go there several months later and identified the dinosaur, he says. Even today, Langston is reluctant to talk about the dinosaur. It was Langston who first discovered Acrocanthosaurus--a bipedal, carnivorous dinosaur that looks much like Tyrannosaurus rex--in Texas, and gave it its name.
Once again, Baugh says his critics are merely engaging in professional backbiting.
While Baugh's science is arguably shoddy and his credentials suspect, he still manages to gain audiences and unquestioning media attention. There are a number of reasons why. Chief among them is the notion of Christian gentility. There exists a code--particularly among young earthers--not to criticize each other harshly in public for fear of sullying Christianity itself.
Even Kuban, one of Baugh's harshest critics, tempered his published remarks about the alleged man tracks by stating in an afterword that he was "Christian, and believe in the Creator. I chose to publish my research...not to attack creationism but to help set the record straight."
The top names among creation scientists are reluctant to talk about Baugh on the record. It is a problem to be associated with him, one says. Another refuses to be named in the same article as Baugh. People like Carl Baugh, he says, are better left alone in the hope that the public "will eventually forget about him."
Baugh says the reason there isn't much hew and cry about his findings is that they are truth. People like Kuban and Hastings have a vendetta against him, he says. But he bears no malice in his heart toward them. In time, he says, they will come to believe as he does.
It is a Wednesday at the Creation Evidences Museum, and the pilgrims are few. Those who do venture in are among the Christian faithful, men and women who've heard about Baugh's museum on Trinity Broadcasting Network's "Praise the Lord" show with TBN founders Paul and Jan Crouch.
Stella Crawford was so possessed with the need to come to the little museum that she drove 10 hours through the night from Hartman, Arkansas. She arrived at 5 a.m. and waited for the doors to open at 10 a.m.
"It's just the truth," Crawford says earnestly. "It's not big, but it's very factual."
Crawford carefully takes in the tatty trailer surroundings. She doesn't seem to notice the dingy carpet, the yellowing signs pointing out the different fossils, or the fact that the "rainforest" set up in the back of the room is an incongruous jumble of plastic plants, large dinosaur heads, tiny plastic parrots, and a patchwork taxidermy bird sporting feathers from a variety of types of fowl.
She eyes each of the objects with a certain reverence. She listens intently to Baugh and hangs on his words with an air of supplication.
"This is just so fascinating!" she says at one point to no one in particular. "I need to bring my grandchildren here. They believe in evolution."
Baugh is gregarious and generous with his time to the few who come in. He says he has had to confine much of his speaking activities to within driving distance of the museum. The work he's doing is too important to neglect for more than a few days.
His life in Glen Rose so far has been a series of scientific discoveries, each more spectacular than the last. And he remains in a constant struggle to up the ante.
This past year, he's journeyed to Papua New Guinea in search of "living pterodactyls." Baugh says these giant prehistoric flying reptiles have been spotted by locals for years. In the three trips he's made to the country, he's seen evidence of them--scratch marks, feet and tail imprints, even their "glow." Pterodactyls apparently glow at will, like giant fireflies.
As he says this, Baugh becomes animated, even wide-eyed. At 60, he hasn't gotten a chance to slow down yet. He has big plans for his museum, including a new multimillion-dollar building shaped like Noah's ark. The building will house his Acrocanthosaurus--fully assembled--along with all the other artifacts that don't fit in the current museum space. He's been trying to raise money for the new museum for the last 10 years, with little success. Right now, he's concentrating on donations to buy the land. He still needs about $450,000.
The new museum will also have an expanded biosphere housing plants as well as mammals, birds, and reptiles. No people just yet, Baugh says. But he'll have to check on the experiments daily, and believes he'll reap some of the benefits. He hopes that the large biosphere, which now sits unused beside the doublewide trailer, will eventually extend his own life.
"There's no reason why I shouldn't live another 60 years," he says.
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