Showing posts with label education. Show all posts
Showing posts with label education. Show all posts

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Dinosaur Petroglyphs, A Return to Reality

Not long ago I found a movie on Netflix titled Dragons or Dinosaurs, remembering a Nature episode, The Dragon Chronicles, done by Rom Whitaker that looked at how ancient myths of flying, fire-breathing dragons originated, I put it on my list. A few minutes into the movie and I realized it was a very slick piece of creationist propaganda, in fact it was a masterpiece. Confusing fantasy with reality is what creationsim has come to do best. And I have to give them credit, they have done a spectacular job of undermining science education in the USA. The movie's website carries the following teaser.

"Dragon images, legends and lore exist all over the world in many different cultures. But what if dragons were actually dinosaurs? Dinosaurs are often used to discredit the Bible, so what if their existence actually helps prove its veracity?"

A visit to the website reveals that they have even created a study guide to accompany the movie.

The movie contained a twist of reality I had not previously seen - and as a high school biology teacher I saw many. Rock art depicting dinosaurs was used in an attemp to confirm the notion that humans and dinosaurs lived together. Apparently, the dino rock art has been used by creationsists since the late 1990's.

Now, Phil Senter and Sally Cole have provided the first scientific examination of the dinosaur petroglyps and of course find that they are infact the usual creationist distortion of facts. The sauropod art work is at Kachina Bridge in Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah. Kachina Bridge is a massive sandstone formation resembling an archway over 60 m high and wide, formed by the undercutting of a rock wall by flowing water. The images are rock paintings and petroglyphs formed by pecking, abrading, incising, and scratching. Other, earlier examples are associated with hunter-gatherers that occupied the study area prior to 1000 B.C and atrributed to Ancestral Pueblo farming societies dating from approximately 200 to 1300 years before present. Some of the art work may have been made by more recent protohistoric or historic Paiute, Ute, or Navajo groups. Among the images made by prehistoric people on the walls of Kachina Bridge is what appears to be an unambiguous depiction of a sauropod dinosaur, Senter and Cole call this Dinosaur 1. And, they test hypothesis that a given petroglyph depicts a dinosaur predicts that the image is not a composite; depicts an animal; has features that cannot be reconciled with non-dinosaurian local fauna; has features of a specific, identifiable dinosaur; and is entirely human-made. They tested the predictions for Dinosaur 1 and three other alleged dinosaur petroglyphs at Kachina Bridge by on-site visual examination under varying light conditions. Their examination revealed that the “neck” and “back” of Dinosaur 1 are a composite of two separate petroglyphs, and its “legs” are a natural mud or mineral stain. A second alleged sauropod petroglyph is only a mud stain. The other two alleged dinosaur petroglyphs are human-made, but neither depicts an animal. Senter and Cole conclude that the four Kachina Bridge “dinosaurs” are in fact illusions produced by pareidolia. None of them support the predictions of the hypothesis that a dinosaur is depicted. Therefore, the dinosaur rock art fantasy joins the pile of discredited evidence from the creation movement.

Unfortunately, many state and local science curiculums have become so rigid that discussion of this kind of controversy in middle or high school classes has become difficult. In fact, having students read this propaganda and carefully examining it with the scientific critiques is an excellent way to deflate much of the creationist non-sense and enhance critical thinking across the curriculum.

Senter, P. and S. J. Cole. 2011. "Dinosaur pteroglyphs at Kachina Bridge site, Natural Bridges National Monument, southeastern Utah: not dinosaurs after all. Palaentologia Electronica 14(1):2A:5p;