The Talk.Origins Archive: Exploring the Creation/Evolution Controversy

Retracking Those Incredible Man Tracks
Copyright © 1989 by Glen J. Kuban

[This article is being mirrored from]

Originally published in NCSE Reports, Vol. 9, No. 4, 1989, Special Section

Despite partial backtracking on the Paluxy "man track" claims by creationist leaders in recent years, the claims were never fully abandoned, and recently the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) and other creationist groups have encouraged some new (actually rehashed) "man track" claims initiated by Carl Baugh and associates.

In the December 1988 issue of ICR's Acts and Facts, John Morris explained that he had returned to the Paluxy this past September to investigate "new evidence" gathered by Carl Baugh and Don Patton.[1] Although Baugh and Patton acknowledge that the Taylor Trail is dinosaurian, they now are proposing that a human being followed the same trail, leaving a human print inside each dinosaur track. Although Morris stated that the "over printing" model "may sound bizarre," and that ICR does not advocate it, he proceeded to do just that, maintaining that the new model was "supported by the existence of somewhat human-like impressions, each rather consistent in length..." and "in several cases, toe-like impressions are seen in the proper location. Some are best denoted by an accentuated discoloration."[2]

Although Morris tempered these assertions by stating that "certain identification is lacking," what actually is lacking is any legitimate evidence for the new claims. Having intensively studied the Taylor Site since 1980 (and as recently as January 1989, I can testify that none of the Taylor Trail tracks (or other trails on the site) contain clear human features, and most do not even closely resemble human prints. In fact, the new "man track" claims are not really new, but are simply variations on the old, thoroughly refuted claims. What Baugh and Patton are now claiming as human prints are merely portions of the largely infilled metatarsal segment (sole and heel) of the dinosaur prints--essentially the same depressions previously misinterpreted by various creationists as human prints.

Morris' claim that the "human-like" depressions are "fairly consistent in length" is unfounded, since 1. none of the depres sions are very human-like, and 2. The same depressions have been interpreted in vastly different ways by different creationist authors--some claiming they were "giant human prints" from 16 to 19 inches long,[3,4] and others, such as Morris and Stan Taylor, indicating that the "best" prints in the trail represented normal sized feet about 10 inches long.[5] Baugh and Patton recently attempted to show that the "new" human prints (in the same dinosaur tracks) are each 11 1/2 inches long. This they did by partially filling each track with muddy water until a puddle about 11 1/2 inches long was achieved!

The ambiguity of the supposed "man tracks" within the dino saur tracks is further exemplified by the fact that neither Morris nor other creationists who reexamined the Taylor Site on several occasions between 1985 and 1988 reported any new human- like features there--until they were "found" by Baugh and Patton this summer--even though the tracks have changed very little since 1985. Ironically, Baugh stated to me while standing on the Taylor Site in 1985, "No one would call these prints human."

Also unfounded is Morris' assertion that several prints contain properly configured "toe-like impressions" or that they are "accentuated by colorations." None of the depressions contain anything approaching clear human toe marks, and the few markings that Baugh and Patton are claiming as toes are merely vague or irregular features representing broken and or partially eroded portions of the infilling material, or (in one case) a mudcrack pattern. Any "discolorations" associated with these supposed "toes" are ill-defined and superficial features within the infilled regions. These are quite different from the more distinct and significant color contrasts occurring at the boundary of the infilling material and the surrounding substrate, which, along with texture and relief features, define the dinosaur digits.[6] Further, in no case are the supposed human toes accompanied by a complete or clear set of other human features (ball, arch, heel), and often the contours of the track contradict those of genuine human prints.

Curiously, Morris evidently does not question ill-defined colorations misapplied to dubious "man track" claims, but previously suggested that distinct color and texture features indicating dinosaurian digits might be fraudulent stains (despite much evidence to the contrary), and that his core samples of the tracks were "inconclusive."[7] Whether Morris still believes them "inconclusive" he did not clarify. Core samples taken by Ron Hastings and me in recent years has well-established the genuineness of the cores, and, along with other evidences, thoroughly confirm the dinosaurian origin of the tracks.[8]

One might wonder why Baugh has resorted to hunting "man tracks" among previously refuted evidences on the Taylor Site, when Baugh himself claims to have found over 50 human tracks along the McFall property during his previous excavations.[9] The probable reason is that even most creationists have realized that Baugh's claims did not match the evidence, and possibly Baugh and Patton are now desperate to salvage something "man trackish" from the Paluxy, especially since their much lauded "human tooth"[10] is looking more and more "fishy."

Morris suggested in his article that if the alleged human tooth (found by Baugh along the Paluxy in 1987) could be shown to be human, then a better case could be made for the human tracks. Actually, the quality of the "man track" evidence really has nothing to do with the tooth (each evidence should stand on its own), but the point may be moot, since the evidence is overwhelming that the tooth is a fish tooth. Morris' acknowledged that the tooth resembles a certain kind of fish tooth, but stated (without documentation) that "objective chemical tests" have supported the human interpretation. Morris neglected to mention that biologist (and fellow creationist) David Menton had studied the tooth with a scanning electron microscope and concluded that it was not human and probably was a fish tooth.[11] The same conclusion was reached by Ron Hastings and other mainstream scientists who have studied similar teeth from the Paluxy.[12] These and other evidences relating to the tooth will be discussed further in a future article by Hastings.

Of perhaps greater concern than the new, unfounded claims of Baugh and others is physical damage done to some tracks this summer by Baugh's improper field methods. At least one Taylor Site track was partially damaged when Baugh and associates poured plaster into it (even though it had undercuts), and then had to use hammers and chisels to break out the hardened plaster (rubber casting material should have been used). A glob of plaster they poured into one of the Ryals Trail tracks is still stuck there.[13] Earlier in 1988 Baugh and associates attempted to physically remove a dinosaur track from the McFall ledge. Not only is this a possible violation of state law[14] (and a bad example at best), but the track evidently was destroyed in the process (the hole was not cut deep enough to allow the track to be removed intact). Curiously, no creationist leaders have said anything about these serious problems.

Morris' article is an unfortunate sign for young earth creationism. It indicates an unwillingness to fully abandon past claims (no matter how well-refuted), and a return to the same kind of faulty research, deficient documentation, and inaccurate reporting that fostered the Paluxy mess in the first place. Instead of helping to set the record straight on the Paluxy issue, Morris' article undoubtedly will contribute to the spread of new misinformation among creationists and the public at large. Already some creationists are calling for the film Footprints in Stone [15] to be reinstated.[16] Evidently little if anything was learned from past mistakes.

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[1] Carl Baugh is a former baptist minister who has been excavating and promoting "man tracks" and other alleged fossil anomalies along the Paluxy since 1982. Don Patton is vice chairman of MIOS (Metroplex Institute of Origin Science), a small creationist group in Dallas that is actively supporting Baugh's work.

[2] Morris, John D., 1988, "Continued Research on the Paluxy Tracks," Acts and Facts, Vol. 17, No. 12. Although the article was anonymous, subsequent correspondence with John Morris confirmed that he was the author.

[3] Beierle, Fred, 1976, Man, Dinosaur, and History, Perfect Printing, Prosser, Wa., pp. 41-49. Beierle depicted the Taylor Trail prints as giant barefoot human tracks 19 inches long.

[4] Fields, Wilbur, 1980, Paluxy Field Explorations, privately published by Fields, Joplin, Mo. Fields described the Taylor Trail tracks as "very large probable man tracks...15-16 inches long."

[5] Morris, John D., 1980, Tracking Those Incredible Dinosaurs, Creation Life Publishers, San Diego, CA., p. 207.

[6] Kuban, Glen J., 1986, "The Taylor Site 'Man Tracks'," Origins Research, Vol. 9., No. 1, pp. 2-10.

[7] Morris, John D., 1986, "The Paluxy River Mystery," ICR Impact Article #151 pp. i-iii, in Acts/Facts/Impacts, Vol. 15, No. 1

[8] Kuban, Glen J., 1986, "Color Distinctions and Other Curious Features of Dinosaur Tracks Near Glen Rose, Texas," presented at the First International Symposium on Dinosaur Tracks and Traces, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

[9] Baugh, Carl, 1987, "Major Discovery at Glen Rose," Creation Evidences from the Paluxy, Vol. 3, No. 1, Creation Evidences Museum, Glen Rose Texas, p. 1. The article claimed that Baugh's team had excavated 54 human footprints. As discussed in previously published refutations, these involved a variety of specious and misidentified phenomena, including portions of dinosaur tracks, ambiguous elongate depressions (not in striding trials), insignificant erosional features, and altered features of the rock surface or marl overburden.

[10] Ref. 10, pp. 1-3. The newsletter proclaimed that the tooth was human, based on the testimonies of dentists and various questionable analyses and invalid comparisons (see ref. 11.) Reactions from other creationist groups have varied from strong support of Baugh's claims (MIOS, Genesis Institute) to cautious encouragement (ICR) and mixed reviews (BSA).

[11] Menton, David N., 1987, "An Informal Report On a Scanning Electron Microscope Study of a Human-like Incisor from Cretaceous Strata in Glen Rose," available from the SOR CREVO/BBS computer bulletin board (719-528-1363, 8 data bits, 1 stop bit, no parity). [12] Hastings, Ron, 1987, "Creationists' Tooth Claims Evolve Into a New Fish Story," Creation Evolution Newsletter, Vol. 7, No. 5, pp. 18-20.

[13] Track IIS+1 and the surface around it was chipped and gouged; the track with the glob of stuck plaster is RY+2. Other questionable practices included Baugh's placing sandbags over the anterior end of an elongate dinosaur track (covering indications of dinosaurian digits) and then showing the remaining portion of the track to tourists as a human track.

[14] Texas law forbids removal of dinosaur tracks from the public lands, which according to local authorities includes the Paluxy Riverbed, but there is some question as to whether the ledge along the riverbank from which the dinosaur track was removed is considered part of the riverbed.

[15] MacKinney, Paul (Ed.), Winter 1988/89, "Creation Evidences Museum," Midwest Creation Fellowship Newsletter. This article indicated that Baugh had displayed evidence of one "freshly uncovered (fall of 1988) human footprint within a dinosaur footprint," whereas Baugh and Patton evidently now claim that all fifteen Taylor Trail tracks contain human prints.

[16] Taylor, Stan, 1973, Footprints in Stone, 16 mm film, Films for Christ Association, Mesa, Arizona. For many years the film promoted the "man track" claims, but was withdrawn from circulation shortly after John Morris and representatives of FFC met with me at the site in late 1985 to discuss the evidence (at which time I pointed out abundant evidence against the claims).

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