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

Reply to a "Review" of the NBC Television Show
"The Mysterious Origins of Man"

Bill H. Cote

In a recent "review" Frank Steiger offers "to provide the information filtered out by the producers of this video" (The Mysterious Origins of Man). Mr. Steiger obviously put a lot of effort into his seven page report, but he made so many assumptions and got so many facts wrong that we are called upon to set the record straight lest any serious reader be mislead by his imaginative "analysis".

FS writes "Heston stated that stone tools were "reportedly" found in Table Mountain in California in 55 million year old strata. This discovery was reported in detail in the fall, 1981 issue of Creation/Evolution:: conclusive evidence was presented to show that the tools were planted by a local shopkeeper and in fact resembled modern, not ancient, artifacts. Yet the claim was made that the conclusion of an age of 55 million years for these tools "seems to have been well documented."

I have to wonder what evidence could have been found in 1981 to overturn the huge body of first-hand evidence of those who originally reported and investigated the discoveries between 1849 and 1891. This includes reports from miners, scientists and even an investigator from the Smithsonian Institution. Why does the scientific community prefer the claims of a local shopkeeper to the sworn testimony of scientific experts and professional men?

On August 2, 1890, J.H. Neale signed the following statement about discoveries made by him: "In 1877 Mr. J.H. Neale was superintendent of the Montezuma Tunnel Company, and ran the Montezuma tunnel into the gravel underlying the lava of Table Mountain, Tuolumne County... At a distance of between 1400 and 1500 feet from the mouth of the tunnel, or of between 200 and 300 feet beyond the edge of the solid lava, Mr. Neale saw several spearheads, of some dark rock and nearly one foot in length. On exploring further, he himself found a small mortar three or four inches in diameter and of irregular shape. This was discovered within a foot or two of the spear-heads. He then found a large well-formed pestle." Neale's affidavit continued: "All of these relics were found... Close to the bedrock, perhaps within a foot of it. Mr. Neale declares that it is utterly impossible that these relics can have reached the position in which they were found excepting at the time the gravel was deposited, and before the lava cap formed. There was not the slightest trace of any disturbance of the mass or of any natural fissure into it by which access could have been obtained either there or in the neighborhood." (Sinclair 1908, pp. 117-118) The position of the artifacts in gravel close to the bedrock at Tuolumne Table Mountain indicates they were 33-55 million years old.

In 1891, George F. Becker told the American Geological Society that in the spring of 1869, geologist Clarence King, found a stone pestle firmly embedded in a deposit of gold-bearing gravel lying beneath the cap of basalt, or latite. The gravel deposit had only recently been exposed by erosion. Becker stated: "Mr. King is perfectly sure this implement was in place and that it formed an original part of the gravels in which he found it. It is difficult to imagine a more satisfactory evidence than this of the occurrence of implements in the auriferous, pre-glacial, sub-basaltic gravels." Even William H. Holmes, from the Smithsonian Institution had to admit that the King pestle, which was placed in the collection of the Smithsonian, "May not be challenged with impunity." He investigated to see if it could have been embedded more recently, "...but no definite result was reached." (Holmes 1899, p. 454) So this evidence, no matter how unexplainable according to our current theories, is well documented, as we said in the program.

FS writes "Virginia Steen McIntyre found a spear point in (New) sic. Mexico strata dated at 250,000 years. She concluded that the point itself was made at that time. Heston stated that a team of experts from the US Geological Survey was called in to date them in 1966. However it appears that the team dated the site, not the spear points. No evidence was presented to prove that the spear point was not merely an artifact dropped there by a modern Indian. "

Now Mr. Steiger is departing from reality. Either he was not paying attention to the show, or he is purposefully distorting what was actually said. Here is a verbatim transcript of the scene in question. Heston says "In the summer of 1966 a collection of stone tools, including this leaf-shaped spearpoint, was uncovered in Hueyatlaco, Mexico. To find out exactly how old the spearpoints were, a team of experts from the United States Geological Survey was called in to date them." Dr. McIntyre did not find the spearpoints, she was part of the USGS team called in to date the strata under which they were found.

Furthermore, she did not conclude that the point was made 250,000 years ago. The director of the site, Cynthia Irwin-Williams, found the spearpoints under a layer of volcanic ash. The ash was un-broken, so if they could date the ash, they could derive a minimum date for the artifacts. Of course they dated the site. How can you directly date a spearpoint? This is archeology 101.

Again verbatim from the transcript; Dr. McIntyre on camera says: "When we first began work at the Hueyatlaco site, we thought we had an old site.... Perhaps 20,000 years old. At that time, that was considered a very old age for the site. When we finally got the dates and all the different methods we used to date it, it came out to be 250,000 years old."

We don't need to show evidence that it was not dropped there by a modern Indian (or do you think the local shopkeeper from California planted these too?) If you're going to doubt the word of the entire archeological team that the spearpoints were found under an unbroken layer of volcanic ash, then who can we trust? All the details are given in a report by Virginia Steen-McIntyre, Roald Fryxell and Harold E. Malde entitled Geological Evidence for Age of Deposits of Hueyatlaco Archeological Site, Valsequillo, Mexico, in Quaternary Research 16, 1-17 (1981) Is this evidence so threatening that the archeological community must resort to distortion in order to dismiss it? So far, to our knowledge, no one has successfully refuted Dr. McIntyre's evidence. Instead, all they have done is attack her character.

FS writes "With respect to Lucy, the hominid skeleton discovered by Donald Johanson, Richard Milton and Michael Cremo made the statements that it is "hardly distinguishable from an ape or monkey," and that it is "merely an extinct ape." These statements are entirely at odds with the appearance of the skeleton and the evidence presented in Dr. Johanson's book. Photographs of the skulls of ancient hominids like Australopithecus and Pithecanthropus show very clearly that they are intermediate between apes and humans."

To say these statements are entirely at odds with the appearance of the skeleton and the evidence presented in Dr. Johanson's book is circular reasoning. The appearance of the skeleton IN WHOSE OPINION? Show very clearly IN WHOSE OPINION? Those who feel that the appearance shows clearly that they are intermediate are entitled to their opinion. By the same token, as Milton points out on camera "this is the interpretation of one group of scientists. There are other interpretations. But you won't find them in this museum." As Cremo says on camera, "But I was at a conference of anthropologists where many of them were making a case that she (Lucy) was hardly distinguishable from an ape or a monkey." An opinion is not the same as proof.

FS writes "Richard Thompson stated that the Java Man fossil remains, discovered in 1892, were a hoax that was covered up and ignored until 1984." He said no such thing. His exact words were "So, the important point to make about the Java Man discovery is that first of all it's based on a speculative leap in which two pieces of evidence are put together in a way that's not really warranted. This speculation was accepted for many years." This is a very fair statement. Please get your facts straight.

FS writes "Neil Steede made the statement that "astronomical evidence" shows that Tiahuanaco, an ancient city in the Bolivian Andes, is 12,000 years old. This conclusion was based on the claim that the inclination of the axis of the earth's rotation undergoes a periodic change of significant magnitude over a period of 41,000 years. This statement is a complete falsehood. ...the angle if the earth's axis to the plane of its revolution around the sun does not change."

Just because you may not know about it, or do not understand it does not make it a complete falsehood. The fact in question is called the 41,000 year cycle in the oscillation of the obliquity of the ecliptic. The angle ranges from a minimum of 22 degrees to a maximum of 24.5 degrees, as originally formulated by Berber. In a paper entitled Callenish: an interpretation, by Rollin Gillespie (former space scientist / engineer for NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC), "the obliquities were calculated to fit a quarter of a sine curve. To interpolate precisely on the sine curve, use the following equation, in which n=the number of years before 3,400 AD. 1 degree.475 sin (90 degrees n years / 10250 years) + 23 degrees.125 = obliquity, or, 1 degree . 475 sin 0 degrees.0087805n + 23 degrees.125 = obliquity. The 41,000 year cycle has been calculated by harmonic analysis, and is nonrepetative in both amplitude and duration." Don't feel badly FS, the Catholic Church took 400 years to come around Galileo's new way of understanding our solar system.

FS writes "What is not mentioned is the fact that the observed position of the sun relative to the corner markers depends on the position of the observer: by merely moving closer to the gateway, an observer would observe a perfect conjunction with present day solstices. Mr. Steede assumed that the observer would necessarily be positioned behind a V-shaped trough which aligned with the equinox gateway along an east-west direction. There is no justification for the assumption: as a matter of fact, an observer looking through the trough "gunsight" would not be able to see the corner posts!"

Of course the position of the observer is critical, but FS makes the assumption that because he saw a picture of Mr. Steede near a V-shaped trough, he choose that as his position. There is no justification for that assumption. If FS had paid more attention to the diagrams, he would have noticed an obvious observation point: exactly centered in the offset apron in the west wall of the enclosure. This observation point was used by Posnansky as well as the Bolivian engineers who later confirmed his measurements.

In the time allotted to us, it was not possible to present all of the evidence available. FS 's comment that the observer "would not be able to see the corner posts" reminds me of one of the most conclusive pieces of evidence we found; evidence we were unable to include due to time: the inner wall. For some reason that traditional theories have yet to explain, the Kalasasaya Temple interior contains an inner wall to the north, east and south, that completely hides the view of the ancient corner stones of the original wall. This wall appears to be of more recent construction and has a fascinating feature about it. When the observer stands on the observation point in the center of the offset apron, he today sees the correct sunrise angle of the summer and winter solstice at the ends of the newer wall. Furthermore, the corners of the newer wall correspond precisely to cross-quarter days. One cannot see the old markers unless someone stands atop the huge corner stones with an arm upraised (which is the procedure used by Steede's team.) The newer wall appears to be up-dating the original ancient wall. So this modern alignment confirms the ancient one by confirming the observation point. Thanks for bringing it up.

FS writes "The narrative does not make clear whether or not Mr. Steede took into account the latitude of Tiahuanaco... The diagram shows the sun's motion as perpendicular to the horizon; this is only true at the equator."

Of course Mr. Steede took into account the latitude, but for the sake of brevity and clarity, some data had to be left out. The diagram did show the sun rising perpendicular, but this type of nit-picking is no serious argument against the conclusions made. Why not question why the sun appeared 20 times too large and froze in mid-air while it was rising?

FS writes "Radiocarbon dating shows that the civilization that constructed Tiahuanaco existed from about 500 to 1000 AD." No, it does not. It shows that from 500 to 1000 AD the site was occupied by people who built fires. What proof is there that those particular occupants to the site were it's builders? This is the worst kind of assumption and one that is used by some in the academic community to support the conclusions they wish to support.

FS writes "John Anthony West stated that "geological evidence" showed that the Sphinx could be 12,000 years old, but did not present any data to verify his claim." Again there was no time to go over this ground in greater depth, but that does not mean his claim is not verifiable. Perhaps FS was out of town when NBC aired The Mystery of the Sphinx (Nov. 10, 1993) in which ample evidence was presented. The program won an Emmy Award for research and presented a case for an older age for the Sphinx which has yet to be refuted by any Egyptologist or Geologist. The evidence was presented at the AAAS and the Geological Society of America's annual meeting and won the support of the majority of the geologists in attendance. The New York Times carried several articles, as did KMT magazine.

FS writes "Robert Bauval stated that "astronomical evidence" and a computer model of the Giza plateau show that the sphinx was constructed around 10,500 BC. No explanation of how he came to that conclusion was given..." Once again, we chose to present a wide range of ideas rather going into depth on only two or three. Mr. Bauval gives ample justification for his statements in his provocative book, The Orion Mystery, co-authored with Adrian Gilbert and published by Crown Publishers.

FS writes "A detailed written record of the history of Egypt goes back to 3100 BC. 500 years later, around 2600 BC, Khufu and his successors constructed the great pyramids and sphinx at Gizeh." This is a sneaky little statement. What it appears to be saying is that there are detailed written records that Khufu and his successors constructed the great pyramids and the sphinx at Gizeh, but had he done more thorough research, FS would have learned that this is not the case. No written records have ever been found that tell us who built the Gizeh pyramids and Sphinx, or why. FS is blatantly trying to mislead the readers in this way. If you want so badly to defend the current view, do so with facts and evidence, not by rhetorical twisting of phrases.

FS writes "Are we to throw all this recorded history in the trash dumpster and replace it with a crackpot theory that the sphinx is somehow related to some constellation as it appeared 12,000 years ago?" If the new theory more correctly describes the facts, then the trash dumpster would be a good place for the discarded theory. Names like crackpot do not enhance your intellectual position, they simply reveal that you do not like what is going on. As the facts come in, and new evidence (like geological weathering features and astronomical alignments) brought to bear, it is the duty of science to revise it's theories from time to time. It may be painful, but otherwise, how can science progress?

FS writes "Charles Hapgood displayed a 1532 Oronteus Phineas (sic.) map showing the mythical continent of Atlantis in the center of the Atlantic Ocean. Based on the fact that the Atlantis continent had a superficial resemblance to Antarctica, the conclusion was made that Antarctica must be the lost continent of Atlantis." This is pure fantasy on the part of FS. We said no such thing. The Oronteus Fineaus map does not show Atlantis in the middle, but Antarctica. This fact itself is a mystery, since the continent of Antarctica was not supposed to have been discovered for another 200 years or so. What does FS hope to gain by distorting what is so easily verified? It does nothing for his credibility as anyone can check and find him wrong!

Perhaps it was meant to distract the reader from another truly amazing fact that has not been explained. Details of the coastline, rivers and mountains of the continent of Antarctica, were found in another ancient map; the Piri Reis map of 1513. According to Lt. Colonel Harold Z. Ohlmeyer, Commander of the Reconnaissance Technical Squadron of the U.S. Air Force, "The geographical detail shown in the lower part of the map agrees very remarkably with the results of the seismic profile made across the top of the ice-cap by the Swedish-British Antarctic Expedition of 1949. This indicates the coastline had been mapped before it was covered by the ice-cap!" (Fingerprints of the Gods, by Graham Hancock) How could anyone in 1513 have mapped Antarctica without it's covering of ice?

FS was also mistaken about his purported superficial resemblance between Atlantis and Antarctica. The speculation that Atlantis may be Antarctica is based on many lines of investigation which are clearly presented in Rand and Rose Flem-Ath's book When The Sky Fell (St. Martin's Press, New York). These include the puzzles of the Ice Age, a study of the origins of domesticated grains, comparative studies of cultural traditions, and anomalous organic finds (beech trees) frozen near the antarctic circle and much more.

FS writes "Hapgood and Flem-Ath touted an idea so ignorant and ridiculous as to be bizarre. They claimed that gravity pulled the northern ice cap in a southerly direction, taking the earth's crust with it. Their diagram shows north as "up" and south as "down". According to their diagram, persons living below the equator would fall off the earth." Now you're getting silly. FS seems to have problems understanding our simple diagrams. I know of some sixth grade children who had no problem understanding these simple visualizations. To put it simply, the earth rotates! Does that help? It is centrifugal force that spins the ice mass away from it's center of rotation (the earth's axis) and toward the perimeter of rotation (the equator). If we had tried to make the earth spin while describing crustal displacement, it would have been very difficult to clarify.

FS writes "This entire production was an absolute travesty; it attacked reason and knowledge with outrages lies and distortions. The show's producers aim was to disseminate falsehood without the responsibility of having to defend it; that is why the script continually uses phrases like compelling evidence suggest to some."

No. We use phrases like "compelling evidence suggest to some", so that the viewer will know exactly what we are saying. It is an honest way to present possible alternative ideas without saying they are true or false. At every step of the way we employed qualifying statements so that no one would be mislead. The point was to consider a provocative "what if" scenario to many of the theories about man's origins and rise to civilization which are still open to question.

We chose to focus on a wide variety of problematic information, and arrange that information, for perhaps the first time, into a cohesive whole. None of this problematic information has been conclusively proven to be false, therefore it is valid for consideration in a hypothetical scenario. Furthermore, the show does not endorse any religious, fundamentalist, creationist, Christian or Hari Krishna point of view. It endeavors to keep the scientific viewpoint flexible and open to new ideas about how the world works.

Not all the responses were negative. Mark Beyrau writes: "I wanted to take this opportunity to commend you on your COURAGE in producing such a show. In many ways, the scientific establishment has become the secular analogue to the adherence to orthodoxy which they so claim to despise in comparison with their freedom to question everything. Apparently, that freedom stops when one begins to question THEIR most cherished beliefs. I applaud you."

In his review, Frank Steiger has demonstrated that he is not a good listener and prone to distorting the facts rather than reporting them. To see more of the emotional reactions from the academic establishment, and supportive statements from many viewers, visit the home page of The Mysterious Origins of Man: Bill Cote, Carol Cote and John Cheshire.

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