© 2006, Glen J. Kuban
Updated 2013, 2022
At my invitation in late 1985 John Morris, then vice president of the Institute for Creation Research in California* along with Paul Taylor and other representatives from Eden Films (formerly Films for Christ), met with me at the Paluxy tracksites to reevaluate their past claims regarding human and dinosaur tracks. During our on-site meetings, I showed them the evidence from my years of extensive on-site research that the most celebrated "man tracks" at the Taylor Site were forms of partly infilled, metatarsal (heel-impressed) dinosaur tracks, and that other alleged human tracks were erosional markings and in a smaller number of cases, doctored or carved prints. By the end of these on site meetings, Morris and the FFC representatives indicated that they largely agreed with these assessments, and that they knew of no valid or convincing human tracks in the Paluxy Riverbed.
Within days after these meetings FFC stopped renting their "man track" promoting film Footprints in Stone. A few months later John Morris (1986) authored an ICR Impact article addressing his reevaluation of the tracks. In this "statement" Morris acknowledged that the supposed human prints were not in serious question, noting that the renown Taylor Site tracks had developed curious coloration features indicating dinosaurian digits, and that none of the alleged human tracks at other sites, or the giant "man tracks" on loose blocks could be considered convincing. Morris also recommended that creationists not use the Paluxy evidence as an argument against evolution. Shortly afterward ICR ceased selling Morris' book Tracking Those Incredible Dinosaurs, which had strongly encouraged the human track claims. However, rather than fully and frankly admitting his unfounded Paluxy claims, he depicted the evidence as still "mysterious" and "needing more research", while fostering several serious misconceptions and incomplete pictures of the tracks, as I detailed in a subsequent article in Students for Origins Research (Kuban, 1986) .
For example, Morris started his 1986 statement by implying that creationists and ICR in particular had done the bulk of Paluxy field research. In fact, Morris and others at ICR had done very little on-site research. Indeed, during our on-site meetings in 1985 Morris acknowledged that he had mostly compiled the work of other YECs. More importantly, he implied that the main evidence against the human track conclusions for the renown Taylor Site tracks were merely "superficial stains" that could have been artificially applied. He encouraged this idea despite extensive that the color distinctions actually related to secondary infillings of the original tracks. Indeed, this conclusion was supported by several lines of evidence, all of which were pointed out to Morris on site, including texture and hardness differences between the infillings and surrounding limestone, and small fissures often occurring at the boundary of the two materials. Most of all, core samples taken at the margin of the infillings by Hastings and I confirmed the authenticity of the infilling/coloration features, showing that they extended well into the subsurface, with similarly distinct contrasts from the surrounding limestone. None of this has ever been clarified by Morris or others at ICR.
Despite John Morris asking in 1985 that creationists to no longer use the Paluxy evidence against evolution, ICR continued to publish and sell materials doing just that for many years afterward. Among these was a tract entitled Have You Been Brainwashed? (as reviewed by Stassen, 1994). Although they eventually removed the Paluxy section from the this tract in August 2006 (almost 20 years after the 1986 Impact article), ICR continued to support the Paluxy "man tracks" claims in two of their popular books: Scientific Creationism (Morris, 2003) and The Genesis Flood (Morris and Whitcomb, 2003 and other versions). Both strongly promoted the Paluxy "man tracks" without any corrections or qualifications. Some creationists have suggested that this may be because ICR considers these books to be "classics" and thus does not want to alter them. However, this rationalization is credible, since both books have been revised a number of times since their original publication. Moreover, even if ICR wanted to preserve the 1985 status of these books, an insert or other means of clarifying the status of the Paluxy tracks could be used, such as an addendum or insert. If ICR is really concerned with truth or consistency, not doing so is hard to understand.
1. As in 1986, Morris again falsely implied that ICR had done the bulk of Paluxy field research, and that the coloration features on the Taylor Site tracks were discovered through his "own research" and a report from a "humanist" team (Milne et al, 1983). Neither was true. Morris had never done any extensive or rigorous Paluxy field research, nor recognized the coloration features on his own, or through the Milne team (which had not yet recognized them either). Ron Hastings and I first recognized the coloration/infilling features in 1984. Four years earlier I had first recognized that the Taylor Site tracks were largely metatarsal (heel impressed) dinosaur tracks, based on their shapes and topography. Morris had no awareness of either phenomena before I wrote to him in 1984 and 1985, enclosing relevant photos, and urging him to come to the Paluxy to reevaluate his "man track" claims. Although his 1986 article briefly mentions my "notifying" him of new track features, in his 2013 article he does not even do this, and more importantly, fails to mention or cite any of the extensive Paluxy work and writings by me and others (Kuban, 1986a, 1986b, 1986c, 1986d, 1989; Hastings, 1987, 1989, Farlow et al, 2012) which documents and explain the very track features (elongated shapes and coloration features) he claims to "not understand" and continues to depict as mysterious and needing more research.
2. Morris paints his defunct book Tracking Those Incredible Dinosaurs ((Morris, 1980) in a largely positive light, despite being withdrawn from publication in the wake of compelling evidence against its claims. He implies that it contained detailed photos and maps. However, many of his published photos were tiny and of poor quality, and did not support his claims about them. In many cases they show the tracks selectively moustened to encourage human shapes (making it difficult to discern the actual contours in the rock), and in a number of Taylor Site photos, the anterior end showing indications of dinosaurian digits is partly cropped out. The supposedy "detailed" maps in his book are far from accurate or complete. For example, his Taylor Site map missed dozens of other tracks (most well infilled) that I and others have documented there, while the track shapes and positions he shows are often very inaccurate. Typically the "human" track shapes he shows are simplistic and even cartoonish, with little resemblance to the real tracks. He presents a crude "sketch" of Roland Bird's Paluxy excavation, making it appear that a trail of large oblong tracks occurred at the downriver end. He says it included an "unexplained reference" to a "removed single giant track", suggesting the print is "shrouded in mystery" and might refer to a giant human track. In fact, the original map is readily available from the American Museum in NY, and clearly shows that the track in question was part of a trail of large sauropod dinosaur tracks, as is further clarified in Bird's writings.
3. Morris says that in his book he placed most weight on trackway features such as human-like strides rather than individual print characteristics, leading him and others to interpret the trails as "possible human tracks." Actually, all of the real (not merely erosional) in-situ tracks in the riverbed, including those at the Taylor Site, were more compatible with typical bipedal dinosaur trackways than human ones. Moreover, he clearly did place considerably weight on individual print features, often claiming that certain tracks, especially on Taylor Site, were convincingly human, and that some even showed "human toes. The problem is, not only did his photos not support these bold claims, but many did the opposite: showing wide anterior splaying and/or indications of a three-toed dinosaurian digit pattern. The only tracks showing clear human tracks were those on loose blocks of rock, which even Morris acknowledged as dubious, and which are widely regarded as definite carvings.
4. As in 1986, Morris again falsely implies the colorations features are merely mysterious surface stains, despite extensive evidence to the contrary. Incorrectly calling the features "ghost overprints", he ignores several lines of compelling evidence that the colorations relate to secondary infillings of the original track depressions, including the core sample evidence, at least shallow topographic relief visible on many of the tracks, texture and hardness differences corresponding to the infillings, and small fissures often occur between the infilling and surrounding matrix. I pointed out many of these features to Morris during our 1985 on-site meetings, and he agreed that they confirmed the authenticity of the coloration features (as products of infilling) and confirmed the dinosaurian nature of the tracks. Instead of explaining any of this, or citing any of the articles that document this key evidence, Morris ignores all of it. Instead he repeats his groundless suggestions that the colorations may be due to artificially applied stains. However, he oddly states elsewhere in the same article that chemical analysis of the colored areas showed they had more iron and therefore were evidently "real." So which is it?
5. Compounding his misleading and simplistic depictions of the colorations, Morris says that they are typically "not indented," and could not "be felt." Actually, all of the colorations coincide with at least shallow topographic relief as well as smoother texture than the surrounding limestone (the infilling is a fine-grained iron-rich clay), both of which can be manually felt (and seen) by any astute observer, and which Morris himself acknowledge on site in 1985. Morris also falsely implies that all the features in question are "rust colored." Actually, the color distinct infillings are bluish gray in the subsurface, and range from blue-gray to rust-brown, with the latter indicating oxidation from alternating exposure and submersion. Where not well oxidized or "rusted" the infilling is considerably softer than the limestone, and this can be readily felt. Again, I pointed these things out to Morris and other YECs (including Stan Taylor's son Paul, window Marian, and other workers), and all agreed. Interestingly, where well-rusted the infillings sometimes become harder and more resilient than the limestone, so that the limestone literally erodes around them, creating raised relief. This too precludes any "staining" idea, but again, Morris fails to mention any of this.
6. Morris implies that the "discolorations" occur only in the anterior, dinosaurian digit area of the prints, not the oblong "human like" portion. which is demonstrably false. The infillings and associated color distinctions extend into the oblong metatarsal areas at the rear that were mistaken as "human tracks". In fact, though his cartoon-like illustrations in his 1986 statement fostered the falsehood that the colorations were only on the digit portions of the tracks, two photos in his 2013 article clearly show that they extend throughout the print. Oddly, Morris also waffles on whether the colorations are "real". At one point in the 2013 article he says chemical analysis confirms they contained more iron, so "evidently the new prints were real," even tho he elsewhere suggests they may have been artificially applied. Ironically, Morris and Paul Taylor took their own core samples after those of Hastings and I, but curiously took them in places where the infilling boundaries were somewhat mottled --as if seeking ambiguous results. However, despite this and Morris' subsequently claiming that the results were "inclusive", my own inspection of their cores at a creation conference revealed that although less sharply delineated than our cures, they still clearly indicated that the colorations were associated with track infillings and extended well into the subsurface.
7. Morris says the colorations were "hardly visible, if at all, in earlier days." This too is quite misleading. Despite YECs often not cleaning the tracks well, some of the infilling related color and texture features showing dinosaurian digits can definitely be seen in the film Footprints in Stone (FIS), in several early creationist books (Bierle, 1974, 1977; Fields, 1978, 1979), and even in his own book (Morris, 1980). Moreover, I pointed out examples of such to him and Paul Taylor during our 1985 meetings in Glen Rose. Indeed, one of the Taylor Trail tracks shown close-up in FIS (track IIS,+5) as well as his 2013 article, clearly shows the same coloration features indicating a dinosaurian shape. Curiously, as the camera in FIS pans across this track without stopping, Stan Taylor (narrating) says it is just an elongated foot slide. However, if one stops the film to inspect individual frames, the dinosaurian shaped infilling is plain to see. Moreover, one of Stan's field sketches shows indications of dinosaur like digits and a question mark next to some of the tracks.
8. As in his 1986 statement, Morris pretends in his 2013 article that he does not understand why many of the tracks have elongated shapes, ignoring the extensive evidence for metatarsal impressions, which I showed him on the Paluxy sites in 1985, and which are thoroughly documented in articles by me and others (Kuban, 1986a, 1986b, 1986c, 1989; Hastings, 1987, 1988). Ignoring all this, he suggests that the oblong shapes, if not human tracks, may be just "poorly formed dinosaur tracks" or "random erosion marks."     Again ignoring the metatarsal phenomenon, Morris states that "a clear understanding of how the prints formed..." has "eluded this researcher," but suggests some light on it be shed by a dinosaur tracksite in Queensland, Australia, where some of the tracks show "elongated human-like shapes in the center". He suggests this may help explain the elongate tracks in the Paluxy. Actually, the Australian tracks do not show "central" pads in the toe area (let alone human-like ones as) as Morris implies, although some do show oblong depressions at the rear, which are not "central pads" of the toes, but like the Paluxy tracks, are actually metatarsal (sole and heel) impressions. So the real mystery is why Morris continually ignores or misrepresents the metatarsal impression phenomena and it's relevance to the Paluxy "man tracks". I might be inclined to allow that perhaps he has not read or fully understood the papers explaining this, if not for the fact that I personally showed and explained the features to him in the Paluxy, which he said he understood and agreed with. Indeed, as I pointed out numerous examples of metatarsal tracks at sites at several Paluxy sites, at one point Morris declined to look at any more, saying "I've seen enough." Apparently not.
|"Pseudo-mantracks" result from metatarsal dinosaur tracks whose digits are subdued by mud-collapse, infilling, erosion, or a combination of factors.|
Naturally, since he ignores the metatarsal track phenomena in general, he also fails to clarify the key point that when the digit marks of such tracks are subdued infillings, mud-collapse and/or erosion, they often resemble large human tracks. As I explained I pointed out the extensive evidence for it in 1985, Morris indicated he fully understood and agreed with it. Yet in his 1986 and 2013 articles, he gives readers no hint of any of this. In fact the words "infilling" and "metatarsal" never even appear in any of his writings.
9. Under "Current Status" Morris (2013) states, "Now, nearly all the prints have eroded and are gone", and that the few remaining ones nearly impossible to access. Neither is true, whether he is referring to the tracks in general, or the alleged human tracks in particular. Although some large sections of the track beds have broken away or been severely eroded over the years, with others sometimes hard to find or see when the river is "up" or are covered with river sediment, literally hundreds of dinosaur tracks on several sites still survive in the Paluxy riverbed, with many still in good shape. Moreover, at least some are readily seen in Dinosaur Valley State Park, and often kept clean by park employees and volunteers, especially at the "Main Site", where many distinct sauropod and theropod tracks are often visible. Moreover, a long scientific paper published in 2012 and coauthored by myself and several others, documented several hundred remaining tracks in Dinosaur Valley State Park alone (many occur outside the park), including over 300 at the "Ballroom" site alone, which were thoroughly mapped during the "big mapping project" in 2009-2011, and detailed in a subsequent scientific paper (Farlow, O'Brien, Kuban, et al, 2012).
Even if Morris's was only referring to the alleged human tracks (which he should have clarified), his statement is still false. While some trails promoted years ago by some creationists are severely eroded (such as those on the Baugh/McFall ledge) or broken away, many others still remain, especially at the most site (the Taylor Site) which is the focus of Morris' writings. Indeed, due to the infilling material reinforcing and helping protect the tracks from erosion, most of the Taylor Site tracks exposed during early YEC work are still visible, as are many other infilled tracks documented by Hastings and I since then. Indeed, all four Taylor Site trails once claimed to be human (the Taylor Trail, Turnage Trail, Giant Run Trail, and Ryals Trail) remain, along with dozens more tacks to the west and south of the main Taylor Site. That said, it should be noted that there are no good trails to the site, and much of the year much or all of the site is covered with water and/or mud. Also, dark silt and/or algal encrustations often obscure the shallow relief of the infilled tracks. However, even in these cases they can often be viewed (even under shallow water) with sufficient cleaning, and some of the tracks, like the long, deep (non-infilled) IID trail, are relatively easy to find even under poor river conditions. For confirmation of the many tracks remaining at many sites even after Morris wrote his article, I invite readers to visit my "Photo Gallery" of Paluxy sites at:
10. In his 2013 statement, Morris shows a photo of one of the supposed human tracks erased by erosion, which has nothing to do with the color distinct tracks discussed in his article. Called "Morris track" with a caption encouraging a human interpretation, upon close inspection one can see that it is merely a collection of shallow erosional markings that have been selectively highlighted (like the smaller mark near but not in line with it) to encourage human shapes. Indeed, the contours in the rock itself lack any distinct human features. The supposed heel end shows no significant depression, nor is an arch or ball defined aside from the applied water. The supposed are just a series of vague indentations, and far from five clear human toes. During our 1985 on site meetings, Morris asked if this track could be still considered valid, but after I pointed out these problems, he admitted it was not a credible human track, leaving it perplexing why he is again subtly trying to revive it.
Perhaps in part due to these problematic depictions, a handful of YECs, especially Carl Baugh and Don Patton, have continued to to promote the alleged human track claims, sometimes even suggesting that Morris went too far in admitting possible errors. On the other hand, none of the major YEC groups does so. Like ICR, the most prominent YEC organization today (Answers in Genesis), includes the Paluxy "man tracks" on their list of arguments YECs should not use, and has never given a full or clear explanation of the alleged human tracks (or acknowledged those who have). However, unlike Morris and ICR, does not sell any materials promoting or encouraging the human track interpretations, or mischaracterizing the Paluxy evidence.
Morris further mischaracterizes features such as like variable track depths and intermittent gaps in certain trails as reasons to conclude that the tracks, while supposedly too "ambiguous" to consider reliable human prints, "might be "coming into their own" as "good evidence for Flood catastrophism. However, this seems to be a classic example of "confirmation bias" if not "cognitive dissonance." In fact, such trackway features are full expected in mainstream (old earth) views, since substrates will often vary in moisture content and firmness even over relatively small areas. Ironically, instead of supporting Flood Geology as he suggests, dinosaur tracks and trace fossils in general provide powerful evidence against YECIsm and a recent global Flood. (Kuban, 2006)
Indeed, what Morris never mentions is that there are literally billions of vertebrate tracks (always in expected geologic order) preserved at thousands of sites around the world, as well as numerous dinosaur nesting sites. Many occur in Mesozoic formations, which according to ICR and other YEC groups, represent sediments deposited at near the peak of "Flood waters". Clearly this makes no sense in a YE/Flood Geology paradigm, especially the claims by Henry and John Morris that the Flood waters were continuously and violently deposited.
Despite decades of misleading and incomplete depictions of the Paluxy tracks (and tracks in general), it is still my hope that ICR and John Morris in particular will finally stop publishing material encouraging the Paluxy "man track" claims, or depicting them as "mysterious," and finally issue a frank and long overdue retraction of past claims, and acknowledgment of the abundant and compelling contrary evidence.
* After his father Henry Morris (the long time president of ICR) retired in 1995, John Morris became president of ICR. However, after suffering a health related incident in the early 2000s, John Morris stepped down from that position, but continued to stay somewhat involved in ICR activities and writing,
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Morris, Henry M. and John C. Whitcomb. 2003 (44th Printing). The Genesis Flood: The Biblical Record and Its Scientific Implications . P & R Publishing, Phillipsburg, NJ, (Original edition published in 1961 by Institute for Creation Research).
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