Years ago, back around 1989, I traveled to Africa to meet with the famous Leakey fossil-hunting clan (in Nairobi) for a book called The Search for Eve
It was for HarperCollins Publishing, and it was based on studies by laboratories at Berkeley, the University of Hawaii, Emory University, and elsewhere that though by using a certain type of DNA (mitochondrial), they had been able to determine when and where the first anatomically modern human “evolved.”
At the time, Richard Leakey, son of Mary and Joseph Leakey, was riding high, having recently been featured on the cover of Time Magazine, which described him as the world’s most famous scientist (even though he had no formal education, raised on the fossil fields of Kenya and Tanzania). The renown had come after his discovery of \what they called Skull 1470 — which due to its dating, was supposedly a “missing link” in those evolutionary dioramas.
I concluded two things in deeply researching for this book over the course of a couple years: first, the genetic theory did not hold water. They thought they had traced the first modern female human back to central Africa 200,000 years ago, but the theory was questionable at best.
Second, I came to believe that dating techniques for fossils and other exhumed items are likewise subject to terrific doubt.
In fact, Skull 1470, which had been dated by something called thermoluminescence, turned out to be a mistake. It wasn’t the age they figured, which made it far less significant and in fact not worthy of Time‘s cover.
In fact, I doubt all the ages paleoanthroplogists and geneticists ascribe to our ancestry.
I believe they know vastly less than what they think they do, and was shocked at how virtually every aspect of human “evolution” is subject to bitter disputes within the fields — though you’d never know it by the “facts” presented in textbooks as if etched in stone.
They agree on just about nothing.
But science is a religion, for sure, with ardently true believers. Years later, while researching for another book, I visited the seismology department at the University of Tokyo, and while I was waiting to interview one professor, happen to note that the professor next door was American, and so I stuck my head in the door to say hello.
He welcomed me in and we began to chat but it wasn’t for very long. I began to question him on how geologists could be so certain that the earth was 4.5 billion years old (the age they ascribed to our planet at the time), and told him I questioned dating methods such as even radiocarbon; for all we knew, the rate of atomic decay was not as regular as they believed but changed over time.
He turned red-faced and told me that if I didn’t accept the earth as four billion years old, I should get out of his classroom.
In short, he threw me out.
Politely, I made for the exit.
I wish folks like him (he too had been educated at Berkeley) knew a substantial percentage of what they think they do. You often hear them throwing around figures. Dinosaurs, they’ll tell you, went extinct sixty-five million years ago.
Sixty-five million? There would really be any evidence whatsovere over the course of such a period? The earth is even half that old?
Fascinating it is how recent expeditions to places such as the deep Congo, Cameroon, the Amazon, and New Guinea have turned up enthralling testimony from natives — and missionaries — who say they have spotted dinosaur-like creatures — perhaps smaller than the bones reconstructed in museums (not as large as once existed), but in small numbers in remote, uninhabited, and largely unexplored territory, still extant.
I’m not sure I believe this. In New Guinea, missionaries have reported pterodactyls, those “flying dinosaurs” you saw in Jurassic Park. Is it overactive imaginesations — in fact the result of watching one too many movies? Other missionaries, including a clan called the Mortimers along the Amazon River, just six months ago claimed to have seen a sauropod on land that had made a mess of local vegetation.
In the Congo, at Lake Tele and the Likouala Swamp, a good number of native fishermen claim to have spotted sauropods that put one in mind of Loch Ness — except they also have been seen onshore, leaving — allegedly — big claw prints.
The size of hippos or elephants, but with the massive tail, towering snakelike neck, and relatively small head. Call it a plesiosaur with legs.
Etching of it have been found in caves. And when natives are shown books with various animals — bears, lions, etcetera — they readily indicate which ones they have seen and which they never have (no bears in the Congo). When a page is turned and a dinosaur is show, they get all excited. This, they say, has been spotted. Some say it’s larger — up to fifty or seventy feet, in Cameroon. And that there are no hippos or elephants in the area because the suaropods kill them. A businessman I spoke to, Mitt from Portland, who funds expeditions, told me he estimates there are a couyple hundred left, in vast areas of tense brush. The Congo territory up through Cameroon constitutes a million square miles of largely unexplored terrain — 1,500 miles of forest, at one stretch. It wouldn’t be hard to hide an animal the size of a school there.
I’m nopt sold on “living dionsaurs. I htink there may be a spiritual component to sighting of “creatures” like “Champie” and “loch Ness.”
I also believe it’s often a product of native legends, plus mistaken identity (a python can grow to forty feet and while mating stand up momentarily on its tail, including in the water).
But then again: it wasn’t so long ago they discovered that the fish known as the coelcanth — which existed alongside dinosaurs, and which scientists said had gone extinct millions of years ago — was found along the coast of South Africa. It turns out that native fishermen catch them once in a while!
But, I asked Mitt — a good Christian — how, if so many such animals still exist, we never find their bones or gather incontrovertible photographic proof.
He believes that it will com,e soon, but that God has held discoveries back, waiting to reveal all that He created, as we set about destroying the last of His creations. He also cites Genesis and how the Lord said the times would be as in the times of Noah. Noah, of course, was all about: preserving a few remnant animals, to keep species alive. Might there have been diuonosaurs in Noah’s time (not 65 milliuon years ago)? Even if none exist today, might they be far more recent than we have discocered?
I have no idea what to think of it all. I’m naturally skeptical. But I know one thing: science (how do we cure a cold? are eggs good or bad for you — can we make up our minds? what causes cancer?) knows far less than what most people think it does.