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Around the Valley

'Ooh, look, dino poop,' trilled a woman about a rock the size and shape of an armadillo.

December 30, 1987|T. W. McGARRY

"He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind: And the fool shall be servant to the wise of heart."

-- Proverbs 11:29, source of the title of "Inherit the Wind," the play about the 1925 Scopes "monkey trial" over the teaching of evolution.

In the back room of an Irish restaurant in Canoga Park, the Believers who refuse to believe gathered for dinner and to watch movies of ancient mud and examine dinosaur droppings.

The Bible-Science Assn. is made up of people to whom the teachings of evolution are an affront.

Virtually all scientists agree that man evolved from apelike ancestors whose pedigree reached back through hundreds of millions of years to single cells squiggling in the primordial slime.

But the association does not.

These creationists believe that the accepted timetable assigns to millions of centuries events that took place in a few thousand.

They are the intellectual heirs of William Jennings Bryan, the fundamentalist orator who defended the Bible as history in the 1925 trial of John T. Scopes in Dayton, Tenn. But they have sallied out from Bryan's fortress of scriptural authority to attack the enemy on his home turf, science.

Research, measurements, analysis, peer-reviewed journals, experiments, data upon datum. The creationists are out to show that Peking Man should be Bible Man, that the flood that floated Noah's Ark 4,000 years ago also slew the dinosaurs and cavemen, that the minds of the science Establishment, not theirs, are closed.

About 35 people attended a recent meeting of the group's San Fernando Valley chapter to hear the Rev. Paul Rosnau, pastor of the Holy Cross Lutheran Church in La Puente.

He brought exhibits of fossils, which were laid out on a table. They included a dinosaur coprolite, a polite name for fossilized excrement. "Ooh, look, dino poop," trilled a woman in peach-colored pants, hesitantly touching the rock, which was about the size and shape of an armadillo.

To one side stood a table with creationist newspapers, magazine and books, several of which seized upon disagreements among orthodox scientists over the exact workings of evolution to argue that the basic theory is flawed.

A book for children included a photograph of a creature netted and discarded by Japanese fishermen in 1977. The author maintained it was a plesiosaur, a sea-going dinosaur most scientists believe swam out of the picture at least 65 million years ago.

Noah's flood killed most of the dinosaurs, but the swimming ones could have survived, said David Coppedge of Canoga Park, a computer operations manager and president of the chapter.

When he rose to speak, Rosnau attacked what he called one of the great fallacies of orthodox scientists, the idea that man and dinosaurs could not have been contemporaries.

Most scientists, of course, ridicule the popular image promoted by the dino-riding comic strip character Alley Oop. They sneer at movies featuring cavemen in fur shorts clobbering magnified lizards. According to them, no human ever saw a live dinosaur, because nothing resembling a human existed until at least 60 million years after the dinosaurs died out.

Crunching eons into the Bible-Science Assn. time span requires believing that man and dinosaur lived at the same time.

Rosnau showed slides and a film about his research near Tuba City, Ariz., where he was accompanied by a geologist, an entomologist and a botanist, all friendly to the cause. He heard of the site from a man famous for his search for the remains of Noah's Ark, he said.

A rock bed--mud before it hardened--is pocked with hundreds of prints left by three-toed dinosaurs "similar to the Tyrannosaurus," he said.

Other tracks are those of four-footed vegetarian dinosaurs with round feet, like elephants, he said, "or they might have resembled a moose--that's another theory which I won't get into."

But in the same rock bed there are human footprints, he said. He showed slides of depressions in the rocks. Some were blurred, open to many interpretations. Some appeared vaguely foot-shaped. Some looked quite like human footprints, alternating left-right-left.

Some of the depressions were large and rounded and un-footlike. This showed, he said, where a foot in a moccasin or sandal slipped in the mud.

Movies showed researchers walking in the depressions to show they follow the pattern of a human stride.

Under the white-hot desert sun, burly men in T-shirts and baseball caps lumbered over a stony version of one of the old Arthur Murray Studio magazine ads, with 1-2-3 blueprints for waltzing feet.

"This site is a mine of gold" for creationists, he said, because it shows dinosaurs co-existing with human beings, "who the evolutionists say couldn't have been there."

Geologists date this rock layer from the Jurassic period, 200 million years ago. By their timetables, humans should no more have been present in the Jurassic than Alley Oop.

"These," Rosnau concluded, "are the tracks of people who drowned in Noah's flood, men who lived concurrently with dinosaurs, which, of course, all the academic specialists deny."

As the meeting broke up, the minister spoke with a woman accompanied by a girl in a denim miniskirt who appeared to be about junior-high-school age.

The rocks probably aren't anywhere near 200 million years old, he told the girl. "No one really knows how long it takes mud to turn to rock. Nobody has ever lived that long."

"See, they're just guessing," the woman told the girl, referring to the academics. "It's just an educated guess."

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