A friend of mine recently gave me a book that he had found at a local library book sale knowing that I have an interest in creationists’ books. The book was entitled Evolution and Human Fossil Footprints by Aaron Judkins. I knew right away that the focus of the book was probably on the Paluxy “man” tracks in Texas but I had never heard of the author. I found that interesting in itself because I have hundreds of books and have read the creationist literature intensely for 20 years and so for anyone to have escaped my notice is rather unusual. A quick search revealed that Judkins has published multiple books on creationism and a website promoting his work in “forbidden archaeology” and “forbidden history.” Looking at the back of the book I found an endorsement by Dr. Carl Baugh of Paluxy dinosaur/human tracks fame. This was the smoking gun to determining Judkins creationist pedigree as this is a name with which I am very familiar. Dr. Baugh is really quite infamous for his outlandish claims of fossil finds and interpretations of geology in a young earth context. I say infamous because he is so far out there that even Ken Ham has considered him an untrustworthy source of either scientific or theological information. Answers in Genesis at one time had a web page devoted to reasons why Dr. Baugh’s teaching should be avoided and other mainstream creationists organizations have clearly steered clear of Dr. Baugh and his “Creation Evidence Museum” in Glen Rose, Texas. Baugh is what I like to call a person who is on the fringes of a fringe group.
So how does Judkins fit into the world of Dr. Baugh. Judkins has followed closely in the footstep of Baugh having “studied” the fossils at Baugh’ museum and examined the Paluxy tracks site, and his books are published by the same publisher (Bible Belt Publishing) which is apparently a self-publishing outfit. “Dr.” Judkins received his Ph.D from a Bible college in California that I’ve already forgotten the name of and it isn’t worth my time to look up again but I remember that it was primarily a correspondence school. Other members of this same school are also published by the same publisher. The book jacket says he has his doctorate in Biblical Studies but on his website it says it is in Biblical Archaeology. All this is to say that there Judkins is a self-made promoter of creation science. But that isn’t all, he has appeared on many late-night radio shows to discuss fallen angels, aliens as returning nephelim, various “forbidden” theories about archeological finds etc.. So his fringe calling card goes well beyond being just an outspoken creation scientist but also includes many other causes.
Judkins’ book is not worth reviewing, it is mostly a compilation of quotes from other creation science material in which he manages to have his own misconceptions of the interpretations of other creationist whose own works are fraught with scientific misconceptions. So you can image how contorted some of the scientific deductions and claims are in this book. Of course Judkins main interest is in what he thinks is slam-dunk evidence against evolution: the identification of human footprints found in all ages of rocks around the world many times in conjunction with dinosaurs. Were such fossil footprints shown conclusively to be authentic, I expect that this would challenge mainstream geological and biological theories for the origins of the earth and life on that earth. Below is a picture of just one such proof of man’s walking with the dinosaurs. I would agree that this footprint in this picture is no doubt the shape of a human foot but I think even an amateur paleontologist would be skeptical that this was authentic.
Of course this rock was donated to the Creation Evidence Museum (Dr. Baugh’s museum) by a friend and has only ever been there and only been “thoroughly tested” for authenticity by those associated with the museum. The many other footprints that he reports in his book have similar stories behind them and have been roundly dismissed as real by even the majority of creationists.
So why spend time writing about an unknown author such as Dr. Judkins?
I present Dr. Judkins to you in order to illustrate that even fringe groups have fringe groups and that too often I see creation/evolution discussion devolve into evidence being thrown around without discriminating among its source. Secular scientists are prone to thinking that all creationists are the same and are apt to quote mine books like Judkins without the slightest inkling that the book represents a very small minority among creationists most of whom would be appalled by much of the content of this book. Likewise, creationists are often unaware of the various fringe theories in evolutionary biology and treat every single hypothesis ever uttered in the scientific literature as if it represents evolutionary biologists or geologists as a whole. There is definitely a form of mainstream creationism and we could probably identify a short list of positions that all creationists share. But it should not be surprising though that creationism should have many variations underneath their common umbrella but to those that have not read the creationists literature it is difficult to identify the differences among them.
I think there is a good reason I did not know who Aaron Judkins was. Groups like Ham’s Answers in Genesis and the Institute for Creation Research assiduously avoid ever mentioning black sheep like Judkins of Baugh. In fact, a search of both of these websites turned up exactly 0 hits for Judkins and only 2 hits for Baugh both of which were rather secondary references. Answers in Genesis removed their page of warnings about Baugh years ago apparently deciding it was better to ignore these fringe members of the creationist community.
All movements, ideologies, communities, etc.. have their uncles that they wish they didn’t have. It is always difficult to know just how much attention one should pay to these outcasts and misfits of the community. Ignore them and one takes the risk that critiques will associate their actions with your actions. Engage with them and risk giving them legitimacy in their own eyes and in the eyes of those that are not knowledgeable in the field.
Most creationists groups have taken the first approach and given no public attention to the many many Ken Ham wannabes out there that are even less discriminating in their use of data and argumentation. I know the latter might not seem possible, but it really is and I think that many scientists that are unfamiliar with creationists are unable to discriminate between Ken Ham, his followers and those who are on the fringes of the creation science phenomena. This is partly because of AIG and ICR’s reluctance to call-out bad creation science in public (maybe because it is so difficult to identify?). However, I expect they work behind the scenes to dissuade church leaders from inviting Judkins and others from speaking about creationism and are probably quite successful in constricting the ministries of those they find to be out of step with mainstream creationists thinking.
When the fringe becomes the norm…
I should add though that I am very surprised at Ken Ham’s recent appearance at a conference with Eric Hovind of Creationtoday.org. Eric Hovind has played up his being on the same stage with Ham obviously reveling in the legitimacy that Ham appearance has given his ministry. I say I’m surprised because Eric has taken over his father’s creation ministry. His Father, Kent Hovind, has nearly the same reputation as Dr. Baugh with respect to his over-the-top claims and his son is very much following in his footsteps. Answers in Genesis once had a warning about Hovind that was very similar to its warning about the teachings of Baugh but now they not only have removed that but have a friendly association. Of course, the fact that Eric attended Jackson Hole Bible College which was co-founded by Ken Ham might have something to do with this new connection. Both the elder and young Hovind have made many outlandish claims as part of their ministries and rather than separating from them there has been a greater kinship developing over time. While Ham has hinted that Hovind’s views have moderated somewhat I don’t think that to be objectively the case. Rather, I think it is Ham that has changed over time.
It has become somewhat apparent to those that have followed Ham for many years that he has grown progressively more radical in his views. He has clearly become more outspoken and harsh in his language and has become progressively less and less discriminating about the types of data that he is willing to accept as supportive of his positions. It isn’t just his interpretations of scientific data but even his Biblical hermeneutics has become more distorted. In effect, I would assert that Ken Ham, over time, has begun to look more and more like what was the fringes of the creations science. However, Ken Ham cannot, by definition, become the fringe to a fringe group because he is so influential that he defines what mainstream is for creation science. Until he is no longer the de-facto spokesperson for creation science Ken Ham will continue to shape and define the boundaries of what is and isn’t part of the young earth creationists worldview. What he may find is that there is a growing undercurrent of dissatisfaction even among young earth advocates that his brand of creationism is not what is best for the evangelical church and he may end up as the fringe of a new mainstream form of creationism.