Of Men and Pterosaurs

So there I was, roaming ‘teh interwebs’ one last time before entering an extended Christmas weekend and going off radar, when I came across a link tweeted by a fellow Skeptic. It referred to something called ‘Project Pterosaur’. Interesting, I thought. I wonder what that’s about? So in the interest of simple human curiosity I clicked on the link.

Oh, and what glories did I behold! This site is the most fantastically bonkers and bewildering woo-stew I have ever seen. I don’t know whether to laugh, cry, vacate the Earth or simply join in the fun these people seem to be having.

The main site is something called objectiveministries.org, and it is an ‘educational resource’ for Creation Science. These kinds of sites are everywhere, the most well-known being answersingenesis.org. They’re all attempts to push very skewed versions of reality onto the public under the pretense that science is some kind of ungodly blight that hides the ‘truth’. This site is no exception. The link above takes you to a particular article on the site, detailing the aforementioned Project Pterosaur.

So, what is this project? I’ll let Dr Richard Paley, the leader of the project explain it in his own words:

“The goal of Project Pterosaur is to mount an expedition to locate and bring back to the United States living specimens of pterosaurs or their fertile eggs, which will be displayed in a Pterosaur Rookery that will be the center piece of the planned Fellowship Creation Science Museum and Research Institute (FCSMRI). Furthermore, the rookery facility will establish a breeding colony of pterosaurs in order to produce specimens that could then be put on display by other regional institutions or church groups.”

Yes, you read that right. Project Pterosaur is an expedition to kidnap living pterosaurs – a clade of creatures the fossil record implies hasn’t existed since the cretaceous period – and put them in a special zoo. Presumably with a big sign saying: “Nur nur! Silly Evolutionists!”

Once the sensation of being in the wrong universe wore off, I was obviously filled with questions. The main one was ‘why do they think pterosaurs even exist in the first place’, quickly followed by ‘what are they hoping to achieve by doing this, anyway’. I’ll come back to the first question – clearly the most important one! – in a moment. The second question is soon answered on the website. The three main goals of Project Pterosaur are:

  1. Support Creation Theory by showing the incorrectness of the philosophy of Evolutionism.
  2. Educate the population about Creation Science.
  3. Create excitement about Creation and the Bible in the public.

As fantastic as a living pterosaur specimen would undoubtably be, it wouldn’t remotely do what Objective Ministries are claiming it would. It would not promote Creation Theory and it would not disprove evolution. Creationists tend to believe that dinosaurs (I know that pterosaurs are technically not dinosaurs, but I’m simplifying for brevity) lived in harmony alongside humans until ‘The Fall’, when they were promptly drowned in the flood due to a typical Yahweh hissy fit. This, they say, explains the fossil record. It doesn’t explain why there are no dinosaurs roaming around now, however. Wouldn’t they have been on the Ark? What about all the flying ones? And this, presumably, is why finding a living pterosaur is so important to them. They think it will make their ‘theory’ look more credible.

Except it wouldn’t. Let’s imagine for a moment that they’re right, and pterosaurs do exist. In terms of ‘proving’ biblical stories it is irrelevant. It just means that pterosaurs still exist. It says nothing about whether its ancestors lived on a boat, just that a particular clade of animals have survived longer than previously thought. The entire span of current scientific knowledge already disproves Creationism. Finding an animal that is unusual doesn’t change that. The existence of the Coelacanth hasn’t put biologists out of work, it just made their work more interesting.

That is also the reason it wouldn’t disprove evolution either. The principles of evolution are sound and proven. The discovery of pterosaurs wouldn’t damage it, it would just make biology more exciting. Objective Ministries seem to think that the theory of evolution would wither and die in the spiny face of the pterosaur, when in fact it would be rejuvenated. Scientists would love this kind of opportunity.

So, back to the first question. Why do they think pterosaurs still exist? It seems to be a mixture of wishful thinking, the twisting of myths and some blatant weird assertions. An example of the latter would be statements like this one:

“[Pterosaurs] were a constant presence in the skies over Eden, where they peacefully ate fruit and plants. After the Fall, many of their descendants degenerated to a carnivorous diet and became feared by man. … Various Pterosaur kinds were common throughout Eurasia and Northern Africa up until the early Middle Ages and interacted extensively with Man. Today, although Evolutionists falsely insist that they are extinct, pterosaurs can still be found, hidden away in the unexplored wilds of our world.”

So now we know. They’re so confident! Personally, I’d love to know the biblical verse that states:

“And Eve was again left hungry when the twelve foot pterosaur stole her apple.”

All I see in Genesis is Adam and Eve and some trees. No massive flying reptiles like in this picture:

This would have made for a more interesting bible

Notice the conveniently placed wing and beak

I also don’t seem to remember pterosaurs cropping up in history lessons on the middle ages either. Maybe I was ill that week.

Other sources of ‘proof’ include Hebrew/Egyptian myths of a creature called the Saraph, the works of Cicero and Aristotle (!), the Native American Thunderbird myth, Mayan myth (Quetzelcoatl) and of course, the Bible. They even claim that mummified pterosaurs were found in Tutankhamen’s tomb only to be promptly and conveniently stolen, possibly as part of an Evolutionist conspiracy!

Their use of the Bible is hilarious. It’s not worth me paraphrasing, as this is pure gold on its own:

“The danger of these creatures is evident when Moses — later leading his people out of Egypt — was unable to use the protection of ibises, resulting in the Jews being tormented by pterosaur attacks throughout the 40 year Exodus. The attacks were brought under control only after the Lord instructed Moses to create a pterosaur effigy on a pole to scare them off (Numbers 21:6-9, Deuteronomy 8:15).”

I’m pretty sure that never happened in the Bible. I’ve read it. I’d remember Moses scaring off pterosaurs with a special shining staff! It really is unbelievable. I recommend after reading this blog you go away and look at the whole site for yourself. Believe me, I am only giving you a taster of the sheer wealth of nonsensical wonders that site contains.

Is this Moses or Gandalf?

Charlton Heston didn't do this!

One thing which caught my imagination on this site was their  belief that the Native American myth of the Thunderbird was based on sightings of pterosaurs. Now, I’m going to be slightly less dismissive for a moment and go out on a limb. It is not impossible that in extremely remote environments creatures may exist which are very similar to their distant ancestors. They would most certainly have to exist in a remote environment if they are as large as these creatures are supposed to be, otherwise we would know about them (new species are discovered all the time, but tend not to be large animals, most of them have been already discovered). In addition, it’s not impossible that local myths may reflect sightings of these creatures. I can completely understand people becoming fascinated with these myths and can even appreciate people believing it. That doesn’t make it likely to be true, however. What I found really interesting with regard to the site’s tying together of the pterosaur with the Thunderbird myth, was this picture of a photograph, supposedly from about 1860:

After cartoons of Moses and Adam and Eve, this one did startle me a bit. I had not seen this photograph before. I am not an expert in photography and am completely unable to offer any suggestions regarding how it was created. It purports to show American Civil War servicemen standing proudly around the corpse of a ‘thunderbird’ that they have shot down. I was really intrigued by the photograph so attempted to do some research (yes, this means surfing the net. Buggered if I’m going across the water to the Liverpool library in this weather!). It turns out that there is a couple of these photographs knocking about. At least one is known to be fake, and one is talked about but doesn’t seem to actually exist in reality. This photograph in particular doesn’t seem to be traceable, and as such I could find no information on whether it has been debunked or analysed in any way, although it is not given much shrift by skeptics. It is also apparently similar to a fake photograph created for the series FreakyLinks, by the makers of The Blair Witch Project, which certainly doesn’t bode well for it being a genuine photograph. So, as interesting as the photograph is (even if it’s fake, it’s a great photograph), given the lack of any other evidence whatsoever, I’m going to have to wield Ockham’s Razor like some maniacal ‘thirties gangster and move on.

It doesn’t stop with pterosaurs though…

Dr Paley and his fellow Creationists also believe that apatosaurs are living in the jungles of the Congo, claiming they would attempt to bring back a specimen, except that they are too large for the proposed enclosure. Aswell as apatosaurs, they also believe plesiosaurs exist (they’re probably thinking of Nessie), trilobytes and velociraptors. They claim that velociraptors are actually the fabled chupacabra and that – I’m serious here – they guard the remains of Noah’s Ark on Mount Ararat.

At this point, I’m thinking the website must be a hoax. So I researched that, too (yes, the internet again – leave me alone, I’m sensitive), and it seems that no-one else is quite sure if this is a piss-take or not either! If it is a hoax, it is the most detailed and thorough hoax I have seen, and a lot of time and effort has gone into making it look real. Yes, it is ridiculous, but only slightly more ridiculous than genuine Creationists I’ve met!

That said, there  is that other part of the site about putting a giant cross on the moon… and the man who fights Satanists along with his cat, Milton…  oh, and the Youth Rock Ministry containing songs such as “Who Let The Praise Out!”… the bit about catching the pterosaurs by disorienting them with a frankincense smoker was a bit weird, too…

Can it be real? I’m not sure I recognise this universe anymore! Help! I recommend you all go and visit the site right now to see for yourselves the genius of Objective Ministries’ Project Pterosaur!

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  1. #1 by AexMagd on January 8, 2010 - 15:29

    Oh God, that’s so beautiful I want to cry! Thank you Colin, this will make me in fits of laughter on many a cold and stormy night 😀

  2. #2 by AexMagd on January 8, 2010 - 15:34

    The best bit, by far, is the reason they’re going to Africa. It’s because there have been previous expeditions by entirely different ministries. 😀 Is this some little cottage industry that we’ve been totally unaware of?

  3. #3 by Sean on January 8, 2010 - 17:09

    I love the Objective Ministries website but I’m fairly sure it’s a (very good) spoof

  4. #4 by Stoko on January 8, 2010 - 20:05

    When mentioning the possibility of apatosaurs in the congo are you talking of Mok’ele-mbembe, I’m fairly sure that this has been shown to be most lightly a rhinoceros.

  5. #5 by Stoko on January 8, 2010 - 20:05

    When mentioning the possibility of apatosaurs in the congo are you talking of Mok’ele-mbembe, I’m fairly sure that this has been shown to be most lightly a rhinoceros.

  6. #6 by Colin H on January 8, 2010 - 20:36

    Yes, Mokele-Mbembe is the one they’re referring to. A previous Objective Ministries mission to the Congo can be found here: http://objectiveministries.org/creation/dinoexpedition.html It reads like a short story to me.

    It contains such gems as these:

    ” “Put down that weapon! The power of Christ compels you!” I immediately commanded, the words flowing through me as if from Above. The power of my rebuke startled both him and the Apatosaurus, causing the former to turn toward me and issue a blasphemous curse while the latter disappeared down the trail. Before Stubbingwicke could notice that his prey was escaping, I ran to head him off. Now between him and the beast, I dropped my gear, rolled up my sleeves, put my fists up and issued a challenge: “If you want that dinosaur, you will have to get through me first!” ”

    “Like most Atheists, Stubbingwicke was all tough talk, but deep inside he was weak since he did not have the Love of Christ to succor him and give him strength. His cynicism and disbelief proved no match for my Faith and I eventually had him on the defensive.”

  7. #7 by Sharon on January 8, 2010 - 22:11

    Yep, I’ve heard many skeptics say this is indeed a hoax. But you are exactly right in that it is so close to actual believers sites that it is hard to tell.

    There are a fair number of cryptozoologists that have Creationist tendencies. The theme they seem to have is an hostility to scientific authority. Anything that appears to undermine what they see as scientific dogma, they cling to. It reveals a very shallow understanding of evolution. Forteans, follows of Fort and all his anomalous data, will also enjoy rubbing incongruous “facts” in scientific faces, poking holes in evolution. They somehow think that there few bits of anomalous data should make us overturn all the cumulative, established knowledge gained by science. But, extraordinary claims… well, you know the rest.

  8. #8 by Pete on January 9, 2010 - 23:04

    This is class! Had to take a very careful double take between bouts of laughter. Pretty sure the site is spoof and a very well researched one at that.

    There’s a lot of inside ‘knowledge’, makes me think it’s a reformed intelligent christian with a wicked sense of hunour getting it out of their system. The Campaign Against Triclavianism is cool.

    Nice one, good job!

  9. #9 by Peter Harrison on January 10, 2010 - 17:16

    Funniest thing I’ve read in a while.

  10. #10 by Spacecliff on January 11, 2010 - 08:34

    This is definately a hoax. You can see all their references to the notorious landover baptist spoof site. Also, I couldn’t find a “Fellowship University” on google.

    Great fun though.

  11. #11 by Sharon on January 11, 2010 - 13:13

    Here is a REAL site. http://www.pterosaur.net/ Brand new.

  12. #12 by Michael on January 11, 2010 - 22:21

    Yup The biggest give away is that they want to stop Pastor Deacon Fred (Chris Harper) and the Landover Baptist Church website. Yet they give the link to the site with a warning that you must be over 21 to view the material there. It is so close to being real that I had to take a second read. There are seriously close Xtians such as Ray Comfort, who would come out with the same utter shit as they are. Another hint was that Landover Baptist was called a fake church that doesn’t exist outside the internet and they were setting out to show ‘that “True Xtians” are ignorant or stupid’–Not like our church who are going on a hunt for a pterosaur!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Go figure. Very funny, especially their demonised (ex-machinist) Jim Carlson, picture above their adverts for ‘Anti-Tricalvanist’ and ‘Orbital Cross Alpha’ a probable skit on the ‘Alpha Course’.
    Nice to be back.

  13. #13 by Michael on January 11, 2010 - 22:28

    I examined the picture of the pterosaur with my amazing forensic high brow FFT image analysis. The guy with his foot on the bill of the reptile has different legs. They have been cut off and put back on and the shading is wrong by 43.72%. Anything above 28.4% is iffy.

  14. #14 by Clinton Huxley on January 12, 2010 - 19:17

    I’m pterribly dissapointed this seems to be a fake.

  15. #15 by Michael on January 16, 2010 - 14:59

    There was a David Attenborough program on the American Thunder-bird. I think I still have it on Video as part of the 6 hour Mysterious Worlds series (I got the double video set)

  16. #16 by K2DC on June 9, 2011 - 01:10

    i know the story abut how the African-black DNA from Lemuria was the one where adam and eve manifested their history because they needed a way out of some tyranny of that time

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