To be honest, I’m not sure if what follows below is as a result of ignorance, stupidity, barefaced lying, or a simple misunderstanding of the facts. I’ll leave that to you, Dear Reader, to decide. However, it is fun to watch a dyed-in-the-wool creationist grasp at any straw to prove his pet theory.
To give you some background, it all started off with a fairly innocent article, explaining how scientists had found fossilised whales in Chile’s Atacama Desert. Now there’s a few things I want to point out from the various sources, quoted in the wing-nut article, by resident nut-job Terry Hurlbut, that I’m about to discuss below:
- The area outside the town of Bahia Inglesa has long been called “Whale Hill” by locals
- The finds, made near the northern city of Caldera
- Today, the whales have emerged again atop a desert hill more than half a mile (a kilometer) from the surf,
Ok, let’s leave it there for now. Suffice to say that all three sentences above have been taken from the articles used to back up Terry’s “story.” And that Caldera, Chile is described as a “port city in the Copiapó Province of the Atacama Region in northern Chile” and Bahia Inglesa as “a village and beach located near the port of Caldera in Atacama Region, Chile. Bahia Inglesa is renowned for its white sands and warm waters.”
Ok, so that set the scene – let’s get down to the crazy.
Enter Terry Hurlbut, everybody’s favourite creationist and the man who thinks that the Great Flood actually happened… albeit in a very strange way. This is the man who believes that tectonic plates are a liberal invention (presumably along with relativity) and that the Flood was caused by great underwater reservoirs bursting forth, with enough force to turn the earth into a giant nuclear reactor (thus explaining carbon dating, etc), and to crater the Moon with icebergs blown free of Earth’s gravity… all this while a little wooden boat sailed safely on the surface. To say that Terry is very much into creationism, is like saying Michael Jackson was very much into plastic surgery and single gloves. So much so, in fact, that Terry is one of the directors of the Creation Hall of Fame. (An undertaking which fails miserably in the name stakes, when you compare it to the Creation Museum and Taxidermy Hall of Fame of North Carolina…
In true creationist fashion, Terry is quite happy to grab anything and twist its meaning to prove that the Flood actually happened… in this case, it’s the fossilised whales. Terry is a great one for leaping to a conclusion – in his opening paragraph he states: “The desert whales of Chile’s Atacama Desert pose an embarrassing riddle for paleontologists: they testify directly to a global flood.”
Now, outside of Terry’s own… ahem… creation about the Flood, the find is not an embarrassing riddle for the scientists. It might be a riddle, but that’s what science is about at the end of the day – solving riddles, or at least coming up with answers that don’t involve “A magic man in the sky did it.”
He then goes on to state that the Atacama Plateau, is 13,000 feet above sea level (which would require oxygen if you were in a plane) and thus the only way that they could have landed there, is if they were carried there as a result of the flood… and presumably boiled to death in the giant nuclear reactor. However, this is where is gets a bit wonky – you see Terry happily goes on to assume that the plateau formed first, then was covered by the Flood, leaving the bodies behind to fossilise. His argument boils down to the fact that “How did eighty whales wash ashore, half a mile inland, and at an elevation greater even than the height of the Empire State Building?“
Now, setting Terry’s confusion (I’ll be generous and give him the benefit of the doubt) about the location and altitude of the find to one side, there is actually a very, very simple answer. Sadly, given that Terry is incapable of considering anything greater than 6,000 years in duration, it’s an answer that doesn’t even cross his mind: the fossils ended up there, thanks to Nature.
You see, the scientists estimate that the fossils are around 7 million years old. Without going into Douglas Adams-esque explanations, that’s a long time… a VERY long time in which things can happen… especially when you take into account the fact that Chile is a land of volcanoes and earthquakes. The simple, natural rhythms and rumblings of the earth could quite easily have moved the whales’ grave a few hundred feet – after all, the Himalayas didn’t exist until India bumped into Asia, so what’s a few feet above sea level. Once you throw in the changing sea levels, which although higher today than during the last ice age, are probably lower than they were 7 million years ago and the location of the bones is hardly a mystery… and certainly not an embarrassing one, as creationists would have you believe. It’s an embarrassment of scientific riches maybe, but that’s about all.
Now, when scores of people descended on the comments section of Terry’s post, justifiably going, “WTF?!” Terry was forced to backtrack slightly, especially as his own sources were being quoted back at him. Funnily enough, conservatives and creationists alike often seem to think that people won’t read the sources they use to back up their “arguments.” Clearly, the claim of the fossils being around 13,000 feet just didn’t wash… especially when you bear in mind that they’d been located near the coast. However, Terry – once again through ignorance or deceit – found an escape route.
The Associated Press article captioned several pictures, describing the fossils’ location as being in the “Atacama desert near Copiapó.” Terry immediately leapt on this, claiming – rightly that the city is 40 miles inshore and 1,200 feet above sea level.
However, he’s conveniently ignored all the other references – especially those I listed at the start of this article. Copiapó is the provincial capital of the area, and as Terry rightly said, home to the amazing rescue of the Chilean miners last year. However, it is nowhere near Bahia Inglesa (or certainly not as near as Caldera is) and is certainly not “half a mile from the surf.” One can assume that these are pesky facts that don’t back up Terry’s assertion and can be therefore safely ignored. We’re still waiting for his latest update on this mess – and really, a mess is only what one can call it. It’s a great example of when your brain runs on God, instead of thinking for yourself.
You see, the problem is that Terry HAS to describe what happened in terms of Flood Geology (which, by the way has been disproved… by Flood Geology!), thus he needs to fossils to be miles inland and really high. Where they are now could be explained away by a tsunami, which doesn’t have much to do with God. Here’s how it all happened, accorind to Terry (I’m not going to comment, because… well… you’ll see) :
And when was the Atacama Desert underwater? During the Global Flood, of course. The Andes are in fact part of a much longer chain of mountains that stretches from the Yukon Territory to the tip of South America. Those mountains formed when the continental plate holding the Americas crashed and buckled. (That in turn happened after the event that formed the Mid-Atlantic Ridge shoved the Americas westward—hard.) When such high mountains form, they sink. As they sink, the land around them rises. The rise of the Colorado Plateau trapped two great lakes, which later spilled their contents and carved the Grand Canyon. The rise of the Atacama Plateau and other lands downslope and to the west, we now know, trapped the desert whales. Large amounts of sediment buried them, and the dry winds preserved their remains for thousands of years after that.
In related news, Conservapedia sysop Brian Macdonald eventually deleted Terry’s link-whoring of his article on their main page, stating “Removed the news item completely. The whales were found near the coast along Route 5, about a mile or so north of Caldera. The proof of that is the photos of the site which show a large body of water (Caldera Bay), something that does not exist near Copiapo.” What will Terry do?
UPDATE: Ah, don’t be expecting Terry to admit his mistake ay time soon. As he says:
If you people are wondering why no “retraction” is forthcoming, here’s why: Journalistic ethics do not oblige me to issue a retraction on no person’s word except from a side that already has multiple problems with the truth. Especially when that side can’t get its story straight.
Stay classy, Terry. Of course, if you want to throw journalistic ethics around, remember this” journalists report facts – they don’t twist the facts to suit their on agenda and they certainly don’t make stuff up.
It’s worth pointing out that Mr Ethical Journalist deleted my posts and banned my account from commentating when I pointed this out to him. Clearly he didn’t like having to explain how a town 40 miles inland, could also be “half a mile from the surf.”
Terry apologised! Well… sort of. He blames AP for posting the wrong town’s name (conveniently forgetting that he ignored ALL the other references to the correct towns) and still clings to the hope that it’s an embarrassing problem for scientists. Best of all, he can’t see to comprehend that what was a beach 7 million years ago, is now 1 kilometer inland.