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.

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Kaylois Henry