The Fake Fringes: How I Fell Victim to an Internet Parody

This is a bit embarrassing but I think instructive so I am going to share how I discovered that I have been utterly fooled by a parody web site for many years.  Last week I wrote about the importance of understanding that even fringe groups have fringes (see:  Human Fossil Footprints: Exploring the Fringes of Creationism).  I had fully intended to write a follow-up post by showed that it isn’t just secular scientists that have difficulty understanding the great diversity of creationism thought, but it is creationists as well that don’t understand that there are fringe theories to evolutionary thought.   I had my example picked out. I was going to talk about aquatic ape theory which has been in the news recently.  Briefly, the aquatic ape theory introduced some 50 years ago proposed that man had an aquatic-adapted ape as an ancestor. This theory never received much support from the evolutionary biologists community but has persisted for a long time and still has its adherents however they are clearly a fringe element in the scientific community.

So where did I go wrong?  I began my research by searching for articles by creationists about aquatic ape theory. It didn’t take me more than a couple of minutes to stumble on a fascinating article by a Dr. Richard Paley who reviewed the basics of aquatic ape theory. His explanation was clearly wrong but that didn’t surprise me since I’ve seen worse errors on other sites.  Paley goes on to explain how man didn’t have an aquatic ape ancestor but was created through Adam with semi-aquatic traits.  In the article found HERE,Paley ends with this truly astounding statement:

Why then would the Lord see fit to give Man semi-aquatic traits? The Lord — being omniscient — knew that He would bring a Flood upon the Earth and that the few humans chosen to survive would need ship building technology. But more than that, these humans would also need semi-aquatic traits so that if one fell off the ship he or she would be able to tread water until the others could help. To this end, He created Adam and Eve with semi-aquatic features such as relative hairlessness and the ability to gulp air with their mouths as a pre-adaptation to the diluvian environment. He did not, however, make Man totally aquatic because He knew that if He did, the wicked men of Noah’s time would survive the Flood, thus defeating its purpose.

You might think, wow that is so ridiculous it can’t be true but what makes this entire website such an incredible parody having read a lot of creation science literature this just doesn’t sound very much unlike many other things that I’ve read. I think it’s a bit sad that when I read this article I was stunned but I never suspected this wasn’t an honest opinion of a real creationists. But consider that I had just read portions of that book on dinosaur and human footprints.  Every page of that book included similar misconceptions of science and ridiculous claims but I am quite certain the author is real and honestly believes what he is saying (see my post: Human Fossil Footprints: Exploring the Fringes of Creationism)

I should also confess that the website, called Objective Ministries, where I found this article has been around more than 10 years and I know I’ve run across it many times.  In fact, about 3 months ago I found a great graphic from the site using Google image search that I was going to use as a centerpiece of an article on baraminology.  Although I believed this website to be authentic, I have always thought that it represented the extreme fringes of creationism much like Carl Baugh and Kent Hovind and so I didn’t pay much attention to what was published there.

So how did I discover that the entire site was a parody on creationism?  Well, it wasn’t’ though great insight on my part at all but rather a second search of opinions by creationists about aquatic ape theory.  I figured that this particular view was coming from the fringe of creationism so I wanted to get a better sense for the mainstream creationists’ views of aquatic ape theory. That search led me to a bulletin board discussion about the very article by Paley I had already read and the very first post I noticed was by someone asking if this site was for real or a parody site.  That sent my mind reeling and I starting to search for confirmation.  Sure enough multiple sources told me that this site was a parody and likely related to a more famous fundamentalist church parody site; Landover Baptist.  Once it was apparent that this was a parody it became obvious, just look at the author’s name of the article that I read:  Dr. Richard Paley! Of course I knew the name from paleontology but the writing is so creationist-like that I must have just cognitively accepted that the name was either the same by happenstance or possible a pseudonym (not an uncommon occurrence in the creationists community).  I have to say the parody is really well done. The author, who remains unknown, obviously knows the creation science literature extremely well and includes large amounts of accurate information and mainstream creationist opinions only sprinkling in very outrageous claims here and there. For example, the page that describes baraminology is exceptionally well done providing a very accurate summary of creationists’ beliefs except for the application to human origins.

Thankfully I have not used any information from this site on my blog in the past and discovered its true nature just before using it as a source of information.  This parody site has existed for many years. I wonder how many people, both Christian and non-Christian, have fallen victim to its foolery?   In my previous post about Aaron Judkins and creationism I observed that Answers in Genesis and the Institute of Creation Science both appear to be employing a strategy of ignoring the fringe elements of creationism rather than warning their followers.  Now I have a second test of that observation.  I searched AIG and ICR for mention of Objective Ministries, Paley and other authors there and came up with exactly 0 references to this site.

So, just in case you didn’t already know, this the lesson here is that you can’t believe everything you read on the internet.

Comments

  1. A credible parody! It sounds like something a YE creationist would write.

    The aquatic ape theory is not as fringe as I once believed. I keep finding it among anthropologists who read and were influenced by Elaine Morgan’s book The Aquatic ape.

    Most archaic populations lived in dense rain forests in the equatorial belt. They were well adapted to the heavy humidity. This is indicated by the evidence of air sacks in the throat, as do tropical apes. However, it is a fallacy to assume that these human populations evolved from apes or that humans and apes had a common ancestor. It simply means that Darwin was right about adaptability of species. Humans exhibit great adaptability.

    Adam and Eve represent the First Couple created by God. If this is historically true, they would have lived before 3.6 million years ago. That is when A. Afarensis lived in tropical Africa. There is no reason to assume that A. afarensis were not human. The morphology of the hyoid that suggests this population had air sacks in the throat is not indicative of them being apes. The same hyoid bone shape has been found in other human populations as an adaption to jungle or tropical environments such as existed in Israel around 60,000 B.C. Similar hyoid structure was found with the archaic population that lived in the Kebara Caves in Israel. All other traits of A. afarensis indicate that this population was fully human, including evidence of controlled fire.

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  2. I once encountered a creationist who had just heard about AAT and was using it to say “look what those evolutionists believe.” When I pointed out that it’s a fringe position, he asked why. After all, it mentions evolution, what more do you need to accept it? Evolutions all made up, so what’s the difference between one made up idea and another? When I began to explain one looks for evidence, not just reference of evolution, and explained some of the problems with AAT he shut up.

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  3. Adam, you provide a great example of how YEC people think. They tend to be oblivious to important distinctions and this is evident in the way they read Genesis. I present another example here: http://jandyongenesis.blogspot.com/2013/05/yec-dogma-is-not-biblical.html

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  4. Hi Mr. Duff,

    I found this article very interesting. Could you explain the AAT though, please? And is the site a fringe of a fringe or the theory?

    I actually enjoy reading your site, though I almost always disagree, but your writing style is very good. I also wanted to bring to your attention that I have written some things on my website about your terror birds you talked about awhile back. I wanted to fill the void of where people had neglected to talk about these amazing birds. Here are those links: http://alreadyanswered.org/2013/03/27/the-terror-birds-and-worldview/ and http://alreadyanswered.org/q/pa/zooneden-the-terror-birds-of-yesterday/

    I’m praying for you and everything you do here!

    In Christ Jesus alone,

    Jacob Howard

    http://www.theyspeak.org

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    • Hi Jacob, thanks for the kind words. I appreciate your willingness to check out the blog despite our theological differences. I had seen your posts before as I do follow your blog. Regarding the aquatic ape theory there is a lot of detail on the Wikipedia page here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aquatic_ape_hypothesis but to summarize it was a proposal man had an ancestor that was adapted to an aquatic lifestyle. Not that they lived under the water but that they lived and around water. This was supposed to explain why we are hairless and several other features compared to other primates. The hypothesis has always been a fringe idea among anthropologist though the popular press likes to talk about it whenever there is a paper or scientists that makes mention of it. Blessings to you, Joel

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  5. It’s amazing how often Poe’s Law comes up. It’s almost as widely applicable as Murphy’s Law.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poe%27s_law

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  6. Thanks a lot. FYI, some recent info on AAT.
    Better terms than ‘aquatic ape’ are Littoral Theory or Coastal Dispersal Model, google
    -greg laden blog verhaegen
    -econiche Homo.
    Rather than running over open plains, Pleistocene archaic Homo populations followed coasts & rivers, collecting different waterside & shallow aquatic plant & animal foods.
    Human Evolution soon publishes the proceedings of the symposium (with David Attenborough) on human waterside evolution ‘Human Evolution: Past, Present & Future’ in London 8-10 May 2013:
    SPECIAL EDITION PART 1 (end 2013)
    Introduction – Peter Rhys-Evans
    1. Human’s Association with Water Bodies: the ‘Exaggerated Diving Reflex’ and its Relationship with the Evolutionary Allometry of Human Pelvic and Brain Sizes – Stephen Oppenheimer
    2. Human Ecological Breadth: Why Neither Savanna nor Aquatic Hypotheses can Hold Water – JH Langdon
    3. Endurance Running versus Underwater Foraging: an Anatomical and Palaeoecological Perspective – Stephen Munro
    4. Wading Hypotheses of the Origin of Human Bipedalism – Algis Kuliukas
    5. The Aquatic Ape Evolves: Common Misconceptions and Unproven Assumptions about the So-Called Aquatic Ape Hypothesis – Marc Verhaegen
    6. The Epigenetic Emergence of Culture at the Coastline: Interaction of Genes, Nutrition, Environment and Demography – CL Broadhurst & Michael Crawford
    SPECIAL EDITION PART 2 (begin 2014) with 12 contributions

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