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Scientific American is at it Again

by  Brad Harrub, Ph.D.

John Rennie, the editor in chief at Scientific American, is at it again. Almost exactly one year ago, Rennie published what he intended to be a stinging rebuke of creationism, titled “15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense.” After being scorned by creationists (and evolutionists alike—after all, his gaff of assigning the Jurassic Period a date of 65 million years ago, rather than the 208–144 million years that evolutionist routinely use, did not win him any popularity contests in his own camp), he has decided to relinquish his pen and let others wield the sword for evolution. His latest plot is a special edition of Scientific American titled New Look at Human Evolution, which is devoted entirely to that subject. In this publication, Rennie invited writers to discuss their theories on topics such as the appearance of early humans, how we came to walk in an upright fashion, where the first humans originated, the reason(s) for different skin colors, and how the human body could be built to last longer. On this occasion, Rennie satisfied himself with a three-paragraph “Letter from the Editor,” which served as an introduction to the special issue.

His opening sentence—“It’s quite a tale”—pretty much says it all (2003, 13:1). Indeed it is “quite a tale”—a very tall tale! Rennie painted an imaginative picture of humans evolving from a primate species. After mastering the art of walking uprightly, our alleged ancestors “strode out of Africa and colonized entirely new lands.” He then invited the reader to “explore the pages that follow, to learn more about that fascinating first chapter in everybody’s family history” (13:1). This invitation comes from the same man who made the following statement. “But one should not—and does not—find modern human fossils embedded in strata from the Jurassic Period (65 million years ago)” (287[1]:80, parenthetical item in orig.). We are curious, Mr. Rennie, why you did not share with your readers the following information from Francis Barnes, an evolutionist and specialist in rock art of the southwest. Dr. Barnes reported the following information in the June 3, 1971 Moab [Utah] Times-Independent under the title of “Mine Operation Uncovers Puzzling Remains of Ancient Man”:

Lin Ottinger, Moab back-country tour guide and amateur geologist and archaeologist, made a find early last week that could possibly upset all current theories concerning the age of mankind on this planet. While searching for mineral specimens south of Moab, Ottinger found traces of human remains in a geological stratum that is approximately 100 million years old…. He carefully uncovered enough of what later proved to be the parts of two human skeletons.

Dr. [J.P.] Marwitt [professor of anthropology, University of Utah—BH/BT] pronounced the discovery “highly interesting and unusual” for several reasons. As the bones were uncovered, it soon became obvious that they were “in place” and had not washed in or fallen down from higher strata…. The rock and soil that had been above the remains had been continuous before the dozer work, with no caves or major faults or crevices visible. Thus, before the mine exploration work, the human remains had been completely covered by about fifteen (15) feet of material, including five or six feet of solid rock…. Due to some local shifting and faulting, it was uncertain, without further investigation, whether the find is in the lower Dakota, or still older upper Morrison formation.

Of course, despite evidence that these human remains are “in place” in a formation 100 million years old, the probability is very low that they are actually that old. The bones appeared to be relatively modern in configuration, that is, of Homo sapiens rather than one of his ancient, semi-animal predecessors (1971).

In an article in the February 1975 issue of Desert magazine, Dr. Barnes offered further clarification of this unusual find.

In addition, the dark organic stains found around the bones indicated that the bones had been complete bodies when deposited in the ancient sandstone….

Mine metallurgist Keith Barrett of the Big Indian Copper Mine that owned the discovery site, recalled that the rock and sandy soil that had been removed by dozer from above the bones had been solid with no visible caves or crevices. He also remembered that at least 15 feet of material had been removed, including five or six feet of solid rock. This provided strong, but not conclusive, evidence that the remains were as old as the stratum in which they were found.

And that stratum was at least 100 million years old. Due to considerable local faulting and shifting, the site could either be in the lower Dakota or the still older upper Morrison formation.

Somehow, the university scientists never got around to age-dating the mystery bones. Dr. Marwitt seemed to lose interest in the matter, then transferred to an eastern university. No one else took over the investigation….

We may never know exactly how human bones came to be in place in rock formations more than 100 million years old. It is highly improbable that the bones are, indeed, this old. Yet, who knows?...

Part of the mystery, of course, is why the University of Utah scientists chose not to age-date the mystery bones and clear up at least the question of their actual age (pp. 38-39).

Actually, Dr. Barnes, it is “no mystery” that evolutionists decided not to date the bones. Since they already “know” that evolution is true, human bones appearing in supposedly 100-million-year-old strat would be, well, unthinkable! Better to ignore them, than to study and date them. There is too much riding on the belief that evolution must be true—reputations, professorships, research grants, etc. But Mr. Rennie, what was it you said about “no modern human fossils” being embedded in 100-million-year-old strata? You might want to heed Paul Harvey’s advice and tell folks “the rest of the story.”

Be assured that this special edition of Scientific American fails to provide “the rest of the story.” It is filled with unfounded speculations, incredible bias, and questionable half-truths. Many of the topics included in New Look at Human Evolution are subjects we have examined at length in our writings (see, for example, the May 2002 issue of Reason & Revelation, “Human Evolution: The Record of the Rocks”). We also invite you to examine our rebuttal (“15 Answers to Scientific American’s Nonsense”) of Mr. Rennie’s July 2002 Scientific American diatribe, “15 Ways to Expose Creationist Nonsense.”

As a part of our ongoing battle against the falsehoods associated with organic evolution, we have been working for the past year on a new book, The Truth About Human Origins, which provides “the rest of the story” concerning what the actual scientific facts say about that subject. It is not a work of fiction that someone might refer as “quite a tale,” but instead contains a veritable plethora of scientific facts that establishes the truth about human origins. The book should be available during the summer of 2003. Cost is only $17.95. Why not call our offices (800/234-8558) with your credit card and reserve your copy? When you see the extensive research that this book entails, you’ll be glad you did.


Barnes, F.A. (1971), “Mine Operation Uncovers Puzzling Remains of Ancient Man,” Moab [Utah] Times-Independent, June 3.

Barnes, F.A. (1975), “The Case of the Bones in Stone,” Desert, pp. 38-39, February.

Rennie, John (2002), “15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense,” Scientific American, 287[1]:78-85, July.

Rennie, John (2003), “Letter from the Editor,” Scientific American, 13[2]:1, special edition.

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