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The Mysterious Origins of Man
I don't know how many of these letters we want to post here, but I submit
this on the chance it will give people here more ideas on what to say to
NBC concerning "The Mysterious Origins of Man."
Ladies and Gentlemen:
I watched NBC's special "The Mysterious Origins of Man," on Sunday,
February 25, 1996. I am nearly speechless at the irresponsibility of
this program. Have you no shame?
I hardly know where to begin. Really, now--aren't you people intelligent
enough to know how bogus the claims of this "sleazamentary" are? I can
tell that SOMEONE there does, because of the hedging language that was
used throughout. Footprints "resembling" those of modern man found along
side those of dinosaurs? The Burdick print is the "most controversial"
of them all. In fact, the elongate footprints are known to be those of
dinosaurs. The Burdick print is a known carving, and it was clearly
carved by someone who does not know human anatomy. No human being ever
left a footprint like that. Carl Baugh has led the investigation of the
Paluxy River footprint site for the last 10 years (or was it 12?) because
creationists have learned that those footprints are not human, and have
abandoned that "exhibit" for their case against evolution. My God!--not
even creationists cite that anymore! Why is NBC doing it? The cross
section through the limestone showed very well-known, classic signs of
burrowing by worms and arthropods. Those markings are in no way
"load-bearing" structures, and any geologist who is familiar with
sedimentary rocks could see that. I assume that "geologist" Don Patton
was recommended to you by Carl Baugh. (That's true, isn't it?).
The claim by Dr. Richard Thompson and Michael Cremo that scientists
routinely "cover up" facts that do not fit accepted theories is outright
misrepresentation. Do YOU really believe that? I'll bet you think that
you can get people in the general population to believe it though, since
people are often uncomfortable with the findings of science and
scientific attitudes, and may be looking for reasons to be suspicious of
science. But why would you want to mislead the public that way? I don't
get it! In fact, scientists are taught to be critical and
skeptical--that's part of the scientific frame of mind. It is not a
"fundamental concept of science" that anomalous information is "filtered
out" of the system.
I don't know the whole story about Virginia Steen McIntyre, but her
explanation was suspect, because uranium and zircon dating are the same
thing. Furthermore, uranium is of no use in precise dating of objects
that young. In any case, the age of a zircon crystal is just that--the
age of a zircon crystal. It does not show the age of stone implements
buried in the zircon-bearing sediment, but rather the time of formation
of the particles that make up the sediment. That is such a fundamental
fact that it might be taught on the first day of a course on radiometric
dating. Yet McIntyre didn't seem to know that! No wonder she has been
shunned since her pronouncements. It is not "knowledge filtering" that
has "covered up" her "findings."
Your show claimed that a plesiosaur might have been dredged up recently,
although some people said it was just a shark. COME ON!! Just look at
its bones!!!!! Don't flash some difficult-to-perceive photograph of a
water-logged carcass! There need be no uncertainty at all as to whether
it was a plesiosaur. Was it or wasn't it? That piece was so
irresponsible as to be completely inexcusable by any standards of
responsible journalism. It is incomprehensible that you could have put
NBC's name behind such a story!
You said that buttercups in the stomach of a frozen mammoth shows that
the earth's climate suddenly changed, freezing in the place where the
mammoth had lived. That is a well-known fossil, which shows that a
juvenile mammoth fell into a crevasse after having fed on the vegetation
next to an ice field or glacier. They had to eat, you know! It is also
well-known that digestive processes cease when an animal goes into
shock--the sort of thing that is likely following such a mishap, so the
buttercups were preserved. This is no mystery! But you have the earth's
crust suddenly shifting by thousands of miles to account for it, as "the
only theory that can explain this." That's what Mr. Heston said!
Geologists and geophysicists know of no process that could account for
such a sudden event. Do you really believe that it has been established
that there was no ice in Antarctica several thousand years ago? What do
the ice cores show? The results of scientific studies of past polar
climates are not being kept secret from you or anybody else! Look it
up-any decent university library has the information. How would an
"imbalance of ice at the poles" do it (the "Hapgood theory")? The ice
doesn't push sideways, does it? This is not a theory that has been
"filtered out," as your thesis suggests. That is just plain bad science.
In fact, it is a perfect example of what can happen when you do bad
Mr. Heston began his conclusion with the statement "We have met the
That is simply not the case. We met the crackpots, instead. We in
science do not fear controversy. In fact, controversy is what keeps us
going. If everything were settled, there would be no more work for us to
do. Examples of REAL scientific controversies would not have been
difficult for you to find. Exploring them might have helped demonstrate
the true nature of scientific knowledge and scientific discourse.
Ladies and gentlemen, we have a crisis of scientific illiteracy in this
country. Why doesn't NBC do something constructive to help this
situation, rather than fuel the fires of the public's galloping
misunderstanding of the world of legitimate scientific knowledge? Does
your desire for high ratings override every instinct for decency in your
organization? The public has come to depend on television to learn about
the world. What a marvelous invention; what promise. Yet, look what
you've turned it into! Shame on you!! I doubt that you could undo all
of the damage you did, but you could try. The decent thing would be to
apologize--not to me, but to your public. Are you up to it?
Norman R. King, Ph.D.
Associate Professor and Chair
Department of Geology and Physics
University of Southern Indiana
Evansville, IN 47720