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Cave Painting of 'Dinosaur' Stirs Controversy
Cave Painting of 'Dinosaur' Stirs Controversy
Creationists who believe a newly discovered cave painting in southeastern Utah is proof dinosaurs and humans co-existed are at odds with scientists who say it isn't so. The dispute centers around a petroglyph at the Kachina Bridge formation in Natural Bridges Natural Monument. The Daily Mail said while petroglyphs drawn by early Native Americans are typical in the area, this one seems to show prehistoric animals instead of deer and other animals.
Fayetteville State University biology professor Phil Senter saw the drawings, thought one looked like a sauropod and noticed creationist groups were using it as proof that humans and dinosaurs lived at the same time. He called in Basalt, Colo., based archaeologist and author Sally J. Cole who has studied the area's petroglyphs.
Their research, published in Palaeontologia Electronica , casts doubt on claims that four drawings heralded as proof depict dinosaurs at all. It states one, which the study's authors say has become a "creationist poster child," is actually two different petroglyphs combined with a natural mud or mineral stain that appear to be legs. It could be a snake or serpent, but is no dinosaur, Cole said.
Another of the four drawings is mere mud stain, researchers said. The other two are man-made but not of animals.
Scientists used their eyes as well as binoculars and telephoto lenses to study the drawings, and looked at them under different light conditions.
The paper takes aim at "young-earth creationists" who suggest humans, dinosaurs and other terrestrial animals were created on the same day about 6,000 years ago. Mainstream geology holds firm that non-avian dinosaurs died out 65 million years ago and Homo sapiens, or early man, did not appear on the scene until less than a million years ago.
Cole and Senter instead suggest that it's a case of pareidolia, a psychological phenomenon of seeing something significant in vague or random stimuli. It's equal to seeing animals in clouds or a religious figure in food.
Not so fast, says the Creationist Museum of Petersburg, Ky.
Discovery News said museum officials criticized the report, saying Cole should have gotten close up rather than using binoculars.
Creationist museum biologist David Menton said he can accept that the petroglyph was a dinosaur or another creature.
"What I'm not prepared to accept is that the artist climbed up there but the authors didn't climb up," he said to Discovery News. "They came to the conclusion that it was nothing."
He said that he would rather hear the study's authors give a better possibility of the meaning than say they have no meaning at all.
The study claims that the area is too rugged for a ladder.
the evidence, arguments, and conclusions made by Senter and Cole are laid out to be read and evaluated by scientists and non-scientists alike, given that PE is accessible free and open-access to anyone with an internet connection. See here for what is really on the rocks at Kachina Bridge.
In the highest scientific standard, Senter and Cole?s paper was pre-evaluated by experts in dinosaurs, petroglyphs, and religion as part of the double-blind peer-review process employed by PE. (The double-blind system allows the reviewers to make anonymous evaluations of the work, allowing them to speak freely without fear of reprisal from the authors, and conversely the authors? identities were unknown to the reviewers to prevent the reviewers from being biased for or against the paper based on the reputation of the authors).
We also pitched our usual set of questions to authors Senter and Cole, including what they think about electronic publishing. Senter replied that ?it?s nice to hold a hard copy in your hands, and I find it easier to read and turn pages with paper than with a computer screen?. However, as Phil also pointed out, ?easy article access for the general public is a real plus?. He also admonished us to advertise the existence of PE more broadly. Roger that!
The scientific process is one that fosters critical enquiry, open debate, well-founded evidence, and transparent conclusions, a useful paradigm not only for scientists, but for all walks of life where well-informed decisions need to be made. In this case, the Dinosaurs of Kachina Bridge turn out to be something other than dinosaurs.
Palaeontologia Electronica Blog
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