Cardiff Giant

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Only two more days in hoax month! Be sure to visit here on Friday to read about the most famous Halloween hoax.

The Cardiff Giant is a ten-foot tall stone man that was found in 1869 by workmen digging a farm well near Cardiff, New York. From the moment of its discovery, this giant man created controversy. Some believed it to be a statue carved centuries before. Others thought it was a petrified giant, as in proof of the biblical passage that says “there were giants on the earth in those days.” Still others recognized if for the hoax it was.

This hoax started when George Hull, a cigar-maker, visited the gypsum mines of Fort Dodge, Iowa. You see, George was an atheist and he’d just had an argument with a minister about the literal interpretation of the Bible, including the passage referring to giants. At the gypsum mine, he came up with an idea. Why not poke fun at biblical literalists and make some money on the side?

So, he paid to have a five-ton block of gypsum sent to a stonecutter in Chicago whom he swore to secrecy. The stonecutter carved the ten-foot tall man, then it was shipped secretly to Cardiff and buried on a farmer’s land. The farmer hired two workmen, ordering them to dig a well at the exact spot where the giant was hidden, ensuring the discovery.

Immediately, the farmer started charging people to come see the giant. And people came from everywhere across the country. Soon, a group of businessmen bought the giant for $37,500 and moved it Syracuse where it came under greater scrutiny.

Sensing the truth would come out soon anyway, George Hull admitted to the hoax and his reasons for doing it—to ridicule the Bible-believing public. Amazingly, his admission did nothing to lessen the popularity of the Cardiff Giant. People seemed to love it, hoax or not.

As a biblical literalist, I find it astounding the lengths George Hull went to make fun of people who believed differently than him. Would I bury a hoax dinosaur-bird missing link just to discredit evolutionists? No way. That’s basically lying to somebody and then calling them an idiot for believing you.

But then again, for George Hull, maybe it wasn’t about religion at all. Maybe it was just about the money. What do you think?

 

References: http://hoaxes.org/archive/permalink/the_cardiff_giant, http://www.farmersmuseum.org/node/2482

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Fun Science Fact

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Crop circles are one hoax that the general public seems predisposed to believe. Think about it. A hoax that even when proven fake still retains its air of mystery and the supernatural. It makes me wonder why we desperately want to believe in beings from another planet. As if we’re somehow alone if the four billion people on our planet is the sole population of the universe.

But I digress. Back to crop circles. Before the modern and elaborate circles started, there were a few reports of smashed crops that were claimed to be “saucer nests.”

In 1976 in England, two buddies were talking over drinks about the saucer nests. These men, Doug Brower and Dave Chorley, thought it would be funny to make it look like a flying saucer had landed in a nearby field. They had no idea how far the idea would go. Although they never claimed to create all the crops circles—many were done by copycat pranksters—they did admit the fraud in 1991.

Most crop circles today are concentrated in southern England. Every year, anonymous circle-makers create elaborate works of art. Maybe some are just expressing their artistic side. Some are probably trying to draw in “croppies,” those who believe the crop circles are supernatural, to boost tourism.

But why do people continue to believe in crop circles despite the evidence they are fake? Maybe it’s the longing in our souls for the mysterious. We seem to have a God-given bent toward the supernatural. In fact, Doug Brower now says he wishes he would have kept quiet and not exposed this hoax at all. Perhaps he too would like to dwell at little longer in the mystery.

 

Reference: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/crop-circles-the-art-of-the-hoax-2524283/?no-ist=&page=1

Photo Credit: ID 41660173 © Wesley Abrams | Dreamstime.com

Iffyosaurus? The fake dinosaur.

Ichthyosaurier

Sometimes we’re tempted to think of scientists as people smarter than us who study things that take years of training to even understand. And that’s correct—to an extent.

Scientists are people with their own thoughts, agendas, career aspirations and biases. Yes, I said it—biases.

I was trained as a scientist and just because I might know more fifteen letter words than you, doesn’t mean I don’t have my own bias. We all come at the world with our own viewpoint, our own lens through which we look at the world. While scientists might be smart people, they’re still people.

And sometimes people are fooled.

In 1884, the National Museum of Wales at Cardiff received an Ichthyosaurus (a marine dinosaur) specimen from a local businessman. The museum kept the skeleton on display for 116 years before it started to show some wear and tear.

In 2000, museum staff worked on restoring it. They chipped away at the layers of paint meant to preserve the fossil. Underneath, they discovered an elaborate forgery which meshed two different types of Ichthyosaurs together along with some fake parts. The staff affectionately dubbed the specimen, Iffyosaurus.

How were several generations of paleontologists taken in by this forgery? Well, of course some of the evidence was covered up by paint, but this also could have been a case of confirmation bias. When something is established in our head as fact, our minds overlook contrary information that’s right in front of us. Meaning we’re predisposed to confirm what we already believe.

Why? Because we’re people. And people can’t be perfectly objective. But people who are scientists have an obligation to at least try to look past their biases in search of the objective truth.

First, though, we have to identify our biases before we can look past them. I’ll start. I’m biased in favor of the Bible as God’s word of truth. Do you think that’s the bias for most scientists?

Probably not.

What do you think? How many scientists would admit they have a bias? Are you biased? What are your biases/assumptions about the world?

 

Reference: http://www.theguardian.com/science/2000/dec/08/dinosaurs.uknews

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Haeckel’s Faked Embryos

 

I graduated with my geology degree in the year 2000 and of course I still remember most of what my professors drilled into me about rocks, dinosaurs and evolution. One of the key phrases I was made to memorize is “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny.” Weird, huh? Say that to your friends three times fast and they might commit you to a mental institution.

This strange phrase has a specific meaning: embryological development (ontogeny) progresses through (recapitulates) the same changes that occurred during evolution (phylogeny). Basically, evolutionists believed (and some still believe) that in the womb vertebrate embryos progress through the previous stages of evolution before developing into a vertebrate (an organism with a backbone).

Too bad this idea is completely false. And the research this theory was originally based on was fraudulent.

Called the biogenetic law, this theory was first published by Ernst Haeckel, a German biologist, in 1866. Haeckel produced a series of drawings to prove his theory. These drawings were discredited as early as 1874 and yet the sketches found their way into a 1901 book called Darwin and After Darwin. Ever since then, these drawings have been cited in textbooks everywhere as fact and proof of evolution.

The textbooks I studied to get my geology degree included Haeckel’s drawings. It made sense to me, as someone who believed in evolution, that you would be able to see evidence of it in embryos. I had no idea I was looking at false evidence.

Even today, many biology textbooks will say evolution is evident in embryological development, although they wisely leave out Haeckel’s drawings. But even this isn’t true. Early vertebrate embryos are quite different. Haeckel faked the evolutionary progression by obscuring the differences and highlighting the similarities between embryos of fish, salamander, turtle, chicken, pig, cow, rabbit and humans. He even changed the scale, in one case where the difference in size was 10 fold, to make the embryos appear similar (for a picture of Haeckel’s drawings compared with the actual embryos click here, it’s the second set of pictures).

Why would Haeckel misrepresented these embryos? To prove the case of a common ancestor.

In 2000, shortly after I graduated, Stephen Jay Gould (a committed evolutionist) went on record saying that scientists should be ashamed of the “century of mindless recycling” that led to these drawings being used in modern textbooks. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

What could lead to over a hundred years of belief in a fraudulent idea? Commitment to the ideology of evolution.

What do you think? Why would scientists look past the evidence (or not examine it close enough) to recognize such a fraud?

References: http://www.discovery.org/a/3935, http://www.evolutionnews.org/2011/06/haeckels_embryos_make_multiple047321.html, http://creation.com/fraud-rediscovered

 

Fake Dino-Bird

Note: I can’t find a picture of Archaeoraptor to legally post here, but to see it on the National Geographic site, click here.

In 1999, National Geographic published an article about Archaeoraptor, a new fossil find and purportedly the missing link between dinosaurs and birds. This fossil came from China and was illegally exported to the U.S. where it was bought by the owner of the Dinosaur Museum. This man then contacted National Geographic to announce the find to the world.

The fossil was heralded as the missing link because it appeared to have a dinosaur-like tail with a bird-like body. Unfortunately, the reason it appeared that way is because it was a dinosaur tail (a dromaeosaur) stuck onto a slab with a bird body. In fact, a CT scan revealed this fossil to be a composite of at least three (and maybe up to five) separate fossils. These were cemented together by a farmer who thought the fossils would bring more money as one piece.

To be fair, few actual paleontologists were fooled by this hoax. The journals Nature and Science both refused to publish the paper because of the sketchy nature of the find. The paper describing this fossil was never published in a peer-reviewed journal, only in National Geographic.

Unfortunately, many more people read National Geographic than peer-reviewed journals. When National Geographic was fooled, so was much of the public.

In October, 2000, the journal issued a retraction based on evidence from a Chinese scientist’s investigation of Archaeorapter. This was a source of embarrassment for National Geographic for many years—all because they wanted to believe the missing link had been found.

What do you think? Why are so many people invested in finding a missing link between dinosaurs and birds? Even if a fossil was found which appeared to be an intermediary between dinos and birds, who could say God didn’t create that as a separate animal?

 

References: https://answersingenesis.org/dinosaurs/feathers/archaeoraptor-hoax-update-national-geographic-recants/, http://www.science20.com/between_death_and_data/5_greatest_palaeontology_hoaxes_all_time_3_archaeoraptor-79473

Fun Science Fact

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As I said on Wednesday, I’ve decided to make all the Fun Science Facts in October examples of scientific hoaxes as well. The first one is one you’ve probably never heard of—The Great Moon Hoax of 1835. In August of 1835, a series of six articles was published over a week’s time, in New York’s The Sun newspaper, detailing the discoveries of astronomer Sir John Herschel.

The articles claimed he used a high-powered telescope to find the first signs of life on the moon. And not just small signs of life either. Supposedly, he found colonies of creatures living together, including man-bats, biped beavers and bluish goat-like creatures. The creatures had made a structure, which the articles called the Sapphire Temple.

Sir John Herschel was in South Africa at the time and had no idea what was being perpetrated in his name. When he first heard, he laughed, having no doubt assumed the public would not be taken in by this sham. Unfortunately, he was wrong. The Moon Hoax was believed to be genuine by a great many people. It soon became infamous, even after being proved a hoax.

Sir Herschel was an innocent victim of the press, more specifically Richard Adams Locke, the newspaper reporter who started the hoax. He eventually said the hoax was meant as a satire (although he claimed it to be truth for years). His intended target for the satire was the unchecked influence of religion in science, which he felt should be entirely separate.

Do you think we’re more enlightened here in the 21st century and would never fall prey to a hoax like this? Maybe. But then again, maybe not. For most of us, it’s way too easy for us to accept the word of someone with a PhD rather than take the time to investigate for ourselves.

Reference: http://www.museumofhoaxes.com/hoax/archive/permalink/the_great_moon_hoax

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