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Poes, Trolls, and Dinosaur Deniers

Feb. 24, 2015 by | Comments (35)

Christians Against Dinosaurs imageFor the last week or so, a site for a group calling itself “Christians Against Dinosaurs” has gone viral, and at least a dozen of my Facebook friends have forwarded it to me in surprise, curious as to whether I’d seen it and if it is real. It managed to get covered in the Huffington Post, in Guff.com, and in several other online media outlets, giving it even more exposure. The site claims that dinosaurs (and fossils in general) are a lie to undermine our Christian faith, and that fossils seen in museums are faked or sculpted out of rock by “Big Paleo” trying to make millions by fraud. Prominently featured on the site and on Facebook and YouTube are short videos by a young woman who makes these very claims, and argues that paleontologists fabricate fossils out of the rock to look like animals. Even more shocking and hilarious, she seems to think that such faked fossils are worth millions of dollars and keep “Big Paleo” afloat. (If only she knew how impoverished most paleontologists are, and how there is no money in paleontology!). As Guff.com described it:

“A fossil is not actually a piece of bone,” she says in the video. “It’s actually a bone that was once in the ground that has been filled with limestone, calcium, and other stone-like deposits, so at the end of the day, it’s a rock made out of rocks. So, you have a rock that’s [six-inches long] and you hand it to a paleontologist, who chips away at it until you have something looking like a bone — and that is a fossil,” she continues. After covering a table with broken pieces of…something, she tells viewers to pretend they are paleontologists (ooh, activity time!) and put the shards back together in their original form. She even offered some spackle to assist in the reconstruction. But, she says, it’s supposed to be a brachiosaurus skull — and “If you’re a paleontologist and you want to keep your job, you turn that into a brachiosaurus skull.”

The site was thrown off the parenting forum, Mumsnet, after the following post was prominently featured:

I’m really concerned about dinosaurs, and I think something needs to be done. The science behind them is pretty flimsy, and I for one do not want my children being taught lies. Did you know that nobody had even heard of dinosaurs before the 1800s, when they were invented by curio-hungry Victorians?

Charles Darwin’s later theory of evolution entirely disproved dinosaurs, yet the dinosaur lie was twisted and adapted to try to make it fit. Any proper look at the facts will reveal that dinosaurs simply never existed.

Aside from the educational aspect, dinosaurs are a very bad example for children. At my children’s school, several children were left in tears after one of their classmates (who had evidently been exposed to dinosaurs), became bestially-minded and ran around the classroom roaring and pretending to be a dinosaur. Then he bit three children on the face. One poor girl has been left with a severely dented nose and the whole class was left traumatised by this horrible display.

Nothing about dinosaurs is suitable for children, from their total lack of family values through to their non-existence from any serious scientific point of view.

Recently my sister foolishly gave my two youngest some dinosaurs toys for Christmas. After telling her to get out of my house I burnt the dinosaurs. My children were delighted because they know that dinosaurs are evil. I am fortunate that my family has been very supportive, and has disowned my children’s former aunt.

Please, do what you can to get dinosaurs taken off the curriculum. Our school has been recently presented with a 214-signature petition, and following that and our recent protest the headmaster has said that he will take it the governors. We are lucky that he is so sympathetic to our cause, but I fear that others may not be.

If you would like to lend your support to our campaign, we have a Facebook group where we spread facts and research about the dinosaur myth. Hope to see you there! :-)

This seems so over the top that it immediately struck me as another example of extreme satire and parody which are so common on the internet. Often referred to as a “Poe,” these satirical pieces are intended to mock the bizarre beliefs of many groups of people from the extreme political and religious fringes. According to RationalWiki, the idea was first coined by Nathan Poe in a 2005 post, and “Poe’s Law” is the “observation that it’s difficult, if not impossible, to distinguish between parodies of fundamentalism or other extreme views and their genuine proponents, since they both seem equally insane.” How can you create a parody of people who seriously believe that the earth is the center of the universe, from the extremist Catholics who run the Galileowaswrong.com site and hold geocentrism conventions, to the recent YouTube video from a Muslim cleric declaring the sun goes around the earth?

This idea that fundamentalists reject dinosaurs as un-Biblical even goes against recent trends. Most of the media-savvy creationists, from Ken Ham’s “Answers in Genesis” organization, to convicted felon Kent Hovind, who called himself “Dr. Dino” (even though his “degree” is from a diploma mill and  he knows nothing about dinosaurs), have cashed in on the popularity of dinosaurs. They have embraced them as a way to lure in more followers, bending the words in Genesis in order to make dinosaurs fit somehow.

So is “Christians against Dinosaurs” a well-disguised parody, or the real thing? Several internet-savvy people commenting on my Facebook page dug up the source of the site, and found that the admins are not fundamentalist Christian groups, and instead some have associations with other parody sites. But the young woman with the two viral YouTube videos has been tracked down. Her name is Kristen Auclair, and she works in an insurance company in Massachusetts, and is one of the admins of the “CAD” site (another clue in the acronym?). Aron Ra, who has produced many YouTube videos challenging religion, got her to agree to an interview. In the interview she sticks to  her guns, answers him with a straight face, and she seems to be dead serious in denying dinosaurs ever existed. So maybe it’s real? But then someone else did a bit more digging and found that in Kristen Auclair’s yearbook, she was voted “Class Clown“! So maybe she’s a really convincing actor, and the whole thing is a bit of performance art?

But even if she is a good faker, she has apparently attracted a lot of trolls and crazies to her site who agree with her in all seriousness, and think dinosaurs are a challenge to their faith. Their Facebook page is filled with comments by what appear to be people who sincerely believe that fossils are faked! As I blogged about several years ago, there really are fundamentalists who preach that fossils (especially dinosaurs) are frauds perpetrated by scientists to make themselves rich and/or to push their evolutionary ideas on us and destroy our faith. In addition to the sites mentioned in my blog post, there is creationist David Wozney of “Dinosaur Deception” and Clinton B. Ames of www.swordofthevaliant.com ministries, who claims on YouTube dinosaurs are faked.

What they write is so appallingly stupid and ignorant and shows no actual firsthand experience with real fossils that it makes me despair for the future of humanity. But their weird ideas are no stranger than those of the modern-day geocentrists, flat-earthers, “flood geologists”, and many other extreme creationists who believe incredible nonsense just because the Bible says so. Heck, even Bill Nye got boos in Waco, Texas, from people who were shocked when he told them that the Moon’s light is merely reflected from the Sun, since the Bible says God put “two great lights” in the heavens. Remember, only a few centuries ago some scholars thought that fossils were works of the Devil placed there to challenge our faith, and the widespread acceptance of the idea that they are the remains of once-living organisms is less than 250 years old. Our modern age of scientific enlightenment is a very young phenomenon in the scope of human thought, and apparently a very fragile one in the face of fundamentalist religion as well.

Once again, we are seeing the bizarre looking-glass world of the internet and the crazies who haunt it, where black is white, up is down, faith is fact, evil is good, and people will believe just about any wacky idea they encounter. We are also in the tricky position demonstrated by all Poes: the crazies out there are so bizarre that it’s often impossible to tell a well-crafted parody from the real thing.

Donald Prothero

Dr. Donald Prothero taught college geology and paleontology for 35 years, at Caltech, Columbia, and Occidental, Knox, Vassar, Glendale, Mt. San Antonio, and Pierce Colleges. He earned his B.A. in geology and biology (highest honors, Phi Beta Kappa, College Award) from University of California Riverside in 1976, and his M.A. (1978), M.Phil. (1979), and Ph.D. (1982) in geological sciences from Columbia University. He is the author of over 35 books. Read Donald’s full bio or his other posts on this blog.

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