Crypto-Creationism 2: Return of the Killer Crapgasm

A couple of days ago, I gave you all a big, steaming Valentine in the form of an overview of Claws, Jaws & Dinsaws Dinosaurs by William J. Gibbons and famous felon “Dr.” Kent Hovind. “Dr.” Crypto and “Dr.” Dino. I’d like to assure everyone I didn’t in any way enrich the authors by my purchase of the book. I bought it used for about a buck.

Today, I’d like to introduce you to some of the highlights of the book, if “highlights” is the right word (it isn’t). The first chapter concerns the Loch Ness Monster. The Scottish Gibbons finds it necessary to add the word “lake” in parentheses after “loch.” Again, I wonder who their intended audience is. The account itself is fairly typical. It begins with St. Columba in the 6th century. They don’t mention that the account was written a hundred years later or that the creature in the account appeared in the River Ness, not the loch (lake). Indeed, they say specifically that “the saint decided to cross the loch (lake).” Oh, well.

The story then jumps to the 1930s, “[a]lthough the local people often discussed the giant creature that many of them had seen in the lake [loch].” Naturally, they offer no evidence for this. What follows is a string of anecdotes (which could be a description of the whole book). They also mention the famous photograph taken in 1934 by Dr. Robert Kenneth Wilson. Gibbons and Hovind describe him as a dentist. According to Wikipedia, however, he was a gynecologist. Take it from me, you don’t want to get those two confused. Anyway, you know the photo we’re talking about: the big fat hoax. Or is it?

Some people claim that the dentist’s nephew (on his death bed) said that the photos were faked, but there is no one alive today who was there at the time the photographs were taken. It is not possible to know who is lying now. Even if Dr. Wilson’s picture were fake, there are many thousands of other witnesses who say they have seen Nessie. (13)

For starters, they’ve gotten the details of the hoax wrong (see Wiki article linked above). Second they use the ever popular argument “You weren’t there man–you don’t know!” Of course, they weren’t there when St. Columba allegedly banished a monster on the River Ness either. They follow this up by arguing that the plural of “anecdote” is, indeed, “data.” And that pretty much sums up the methodology of the book (“Sadly, most scientists will not accept eyewitness accounts, photographs, or even film as evidence that large unidentified animals inhabit the depths of Loch Ness” 16. A sentence similar to this appears in pretty much every chapter).  Of course, the photo is a pretty obvious hoax. The object is quite small and doesn’t even resemble most of the accounts of Nessie. So, it’s very bad evidence, but apparently, the plural of “bad evidence” is “good evidence.”

So, let’s say there are plesiosaurs hanging around in lakes (lochs) the world over. What is the significance? “Perhaps, one day the Lord will allow some intrepid monster hunter to capture one of these amazing creatures as testimony of His awesome presence and power!” (17). Well, the Lord has been allowing the damn things to roam about unmolested in the River Ness, Loch Ness and environs (sometimes it walks around on land) since the 6th century, so we may have a bit a wait until we’re able to see His awesome presence and power.

The next chapter is my favorite. It’s called “Sailors, Sea Serpents and Dragons,” and it features Beowulf. It seems obvious really, what with “dragons” in the title and everything. Yeah, they don’t mention the dragon in Beowulf. Which is odd when you think about it, because dragons are meat and drink to creationists with a cryptozoological bent. They’re big reptiles that in a number of ways resemble dinosaurs. Of course, in a number of ways, they don’t resemble dinosaurs, but that’s okay because–hey! look over there! Is that the Holy Spirit?!

Uh, no, I guess it was just an albino pigeon. Anyway, what was I saying? Oh, yeah. They don’t mention the dragon in Beowulf in either the dragon chapter or the pterosaur chapter (“Those Terrible Pterosaurs.” I can’t imagine how they resisted the urge to call it “Those Pterrible Pterosaurs”). So, if you eliminate the dragon, where are the dinosaurs in Beowulf? Well, there’s the creature known as “The Grendel.” Yup, they added a definite article and italicized it. No, I don’t know why.

“Grendel a dinosaur,” I hear you scoff, “Surely not.” I sympathize with your scoffing. They seem to have cribbed much of the “information” about Beowulf from Bill Cooper’s magnificent octopus, After the Flood: The Early Post-Flood History of Europe Traced back to Noah. Now, I’ve got 20+ pages of well-researched rant about Cooper and Beowulf, so allow me to summarize:

How does he come to this brilliant conclusion? Again, I shall summarize: dude’s an idiot. I should note that Hovind and Gibbons nowhere credit Cooper although it’s clear they are influenced by him, but–hey–what’s a little plagiarism between zealous loons? Gibbons and Hovind, perhaps realizing that the T. Rex was a North American creature, actually suggest that “the Grendel” was a “fearsome Megalosaurus, a dinosaur found in Britain and similar to Tyrannosaurus-Rex” (19). Still dumb, but very slightly less dumb.

But they’re not through with Beowulf yet because Beowulf also slew some sea serpents. After Grendel’s mother attacks,* the Geats and Danes go to the mere (loch [lake]) where they see these creatures which “were said to surface at dawn and attack sailing ships” (19. This is only slightly garbled). For some reason they don’t mention that one of the Geats killed one of the critters. Pffft, details.

But this, apparently, was only the beginning of Beowulf’s career in the sea-serpent slaying business:

After his victory over Grendel [apparently Beowulf ripped off Grendel's "the"], Beowulf turned his attention to the dragons and serpents that continued to menace ships in the sea. Using large spears that were normally reserved for killing boars, Beowulf and his men began clearing the shipping lanes between Denmark and Sweden. He managed to kill at least nine of the monsters. As a reward for his courage as a monster-hunter, Beowulf was later crowned king of the Geats… (19-21. For anyone  wondering how this passage can span three pages, most of p. 20 is taken up with a long caption explaining a picture of a kronosaur and an elasmosaur apparently kissing in the shadow of the Ark).

At first I was wondering if Gibbons and Hovind had gotten hold of some copy of Beowulf with which I was not familiar. Perhaps an old manuscript of Beowulf II: The Lost Years. But the number nine rang a bell. Could they somehow be talking about Beowulf’s swimming match with Breca? It seems unlikely, but it’s all I can come up with.

The swimming match with Breca happens before the events of the poem take place, not after Beowulf’s fight with Grendel (and his mother, whom Gibbons and Hovind don’t mention). In fact Beowulf tells the story before the fight with Grendel. According to Beowulf, he spent five days in the water swimming (with his sword in his hand). Then the seas became rough, he and Breca were separated and a sea monster dragged him down to the bottom but he was able to kill it and eight other monsters with his sword (no idea where the boar-hunting spear comes from, sorry). There is no mention of shipping lanes that I can see, and it certainly wasn’t because of this feat that Beowulf became king–the swimming match occurred when he was very young. How did he become king? Hygelac, the king, was killed in battle. His widow Hygd offered Beowulf the throne because her son was a child. Beowulf refused. Years later after Hygelac’s son, Heardred, was also killed in battle, Beowulf, Hygelac’s nephew, became king.

So Gibbons and Hovind get the plot wrong, make a bunch of stuff up, ignore two-thirds of the major monsters in the poem and say silly things about the other monsters. Great. Let’s see how they do with Norse sagas:

In 1001 AD, Leif Erikson, a Viking commander, stepped ashore on a rich wooded land which lay far west of his native Iceland. He called the new land Markland (Woodland). Today, we this call this area [sic], Newfoundland, situated on Canada’s east coast. (41)

Where to start? Well, there’s the garbled sentence and unfortunate punctuation. Then there’s a sort of geographical imprecision. They make Newfoundland sound like Labrador, rather than an island off the coast of Canada. And I suppose this is nitpicky, and Iceland and Norway do both claim Leif, but he had settled in Greenland at this time, not Iceland.

And then there’s Markland. The Norse explorers** certainly did see a forested land they called Markland (as well as a place they named Helluland–Flat Rock Land), but their main settlement, the one in Newfoundland, was called Vinland. Oh, well, it’s all Canada. Anyway while in Canadaland, guess what Leif saw:

Erikson and his men encountered hairy, ugly giants that uttered harsh cries. This is the earliest recorded encounter with Bigfoot, or Sasquatch…. (41)

I’ve read the Vinland sagas. I don’t remember any Bigfeet (Bigfoots?). I’ve just skimmed them again. Guess what I haven’t found. In particular, Leif himself encountered nothing especially odd, though during a later voyage, one of his brothers was killed by a Uniped:

[I]t came bounding down towards where the ship lay. Thorvald, Eirik the Red’s son, was sitting at the helm. The Uniped shot an arrow into his groin. Thorvald pulled out the arrow and said, “This is a rich country we have found; there is plenty of fat around my entrails.” Soon afterwards he died of the wound. (Eirik’s Saga 102)

But that’s just one foot of indeterminate size. Bigfoots are traditionally described as bipeds. The only large, loud hairy beasts in the Vinland sagas are the livestock brought to Vinland by the Scandinavians. That seems to leave the Skraelings, a word that, according to everyone–everyone–refers to Native peoples.

They were small and evil-looking, and their hair was coarse; they had large eyes and broad cheekbones. (Eirik’s Saga 98)

So, kind of insulting and offensive, but not very Bigfooty.

So what’s the creationist point of all this Bigfoot stuff? Damned if I know. After discussing the Russian Alma, however, Gibbons and Hovind say,

Some scientists think that the alma might actually be a surviving race of “primitive” humans–such as the Neanderthal Man. This could be another nail in the coffin for evolution proving that Neanderthals were just odd-shaped humans who lived in the same time frame as the rest of society in the rural areas of Europe. (48)

I don’t even understand that. Does the alma “prove” that Neanderthals were just odd-shaped humans, or is evolution trying to prove that Neanderthals were just odd-shaped humans, and somehow the Alma proves that they weren’t? This shows why it’s so important to be clear when you’re being idiotic.

People tend to maintain that modern man knows all there is to know about this world. (49)

Who are these mysterious people made of straw?

This type of proud and haughty attitude is ungodly and unhealthy. God made a great and beautiful world full of marvels and surprises. Science is the study of God’s creation and should draw us closer to the Creator. Until a Bigfoot is captured and closely examined, the creatures will continue to be one of the Creator’s mysteries. (49)

Okay, first, you might want to look up “science” in a dictionary (different from a creationary). Second, yeah, I’m sure a Bigfoot will be captured any day now.

*Gibbons and Hovind say Beowulf and his men track “the Grendel back to its lair” (19), placing the encounter with the sea monsters directly after Beowulf’s fight with Grendel and before Grendel’s mother’s mission of vengeance. They are mistaken.

**In The Saga of Eirik the Red, Helluland and Markland are actually named during Thorfinn Karsefni’s expedition, not Leif’s.

ES

References:

Cooper, Bill. After the Flood: The Early Post-Flood History of Europe Traced back to Noah. Chichester: New Wine, 1995. This book is available online. Reading this book may cause delirium and extreme stupidity. If you choose not to heed my warning, you can find it for yourself.

Gibbons, William J. and “Dr.” Kent Hovind. Claws, Jaws and Dinosaurs. Pensacola: CSE Publications, 1999. Also potentially dangerous to your sanity and well-being.

Magnusson, Magnus and Hermann Pálsson, tr. The Vinland Sagas: The Norse Discovery of America (Grænlendinga saga and Eiríks saga rauða). Penguin Classics. London: Penguin, 1965. This book is safe to read.

25 Responses to Crypto-Creationism 2: Return of the Killer Crapgasm

  1. Bob says:

    But do you think they are idiots, Eve?

    RJB

  2. Pacal says:

    Once again “The Stupid It BURNS!!!”.

    But to get to more interesting matters. I wonder if you have read that rather weird and wonderful novel from the early 70’s called Grendel, by John Gardner. A sort of Beowulf from the point of view of the Monster. I esspecially like the ending. (Spoiler Alert)

    “Grendel had an accident, so may you all!”, said by Grendel has he is dying.

    I’ve been myself rather partial to Grendel myself, given that he and his mother seemed to have gotten a raw deal. Beowulf himself seems rather a bore, as is typical of heroes in far to much Epic poetry, by comparison Grendel, his mother and the Dragon are much more interesting.

    Regarding the Norse and Vinland. I guess they are not familar with the story that a man named Bjarni Herjolfsson, blown off course sailing to Greenland sighted Markland and Helluland.

    Oh and the date for Leif Ericsson’s voyage is not clerarly established. A lot of books give the dates A.D. 1000 or 1001. The date could easily be 1010 A.D. or even a bit later.

    The name Vinland has proven to be a lovely little trap for people trying to find the site. L’Anse aux Meadows was thought by many people that it could not possibly be Vinland because grapes most emphatically do NOT grow there now or around the time of the Vikings. Well it appears that Vinland is a general term for a much larger area not just the specific location of Leif’s camp. So it appears that the grapes came from other parts of Vinland like the Eastern Quebec New Brunswick, PEI.

    I won’t go intop the dispute over weather or not Vinland “really” means meadowland.

    It is of interest to note that Helge Ingstad who is usually credited with finding L’Anse aux Meadows. Well he wasn’t the first.

    In 1914 a NewFoundland Businessman named William Munn published a series of articles in a St. John’s paper suggesting that L’Anse aux Meadows was Leif’s campsite. He later published them in a book called the Wineland Voyages, which is a rariety. This work inspired two other men to explore the area. An American named Arlington H. Mallery in the late 1940’s, he too published a book called Lost America. A Danish archaeologist named Jorgen Meldgaard explored the area in the 1950’s although he was unable to do any digs.

    I’m rather tired of the meme that Ingstaad was a lone discouver of L’Anse aux Meadows.

    If you’ve read Hovind’s dissertation, (Thanks Wikileaks!), you know the stupid displayed here is in ample evidence there. My favorite bit of nonsense is his date for the flood, c. 2400 B.C., 100+ years after the building of the great Pyramid. And of course not a trace of said flood noted in Egyptian records.

  3. Eve says:

    Pacal,

    I have read Gardner’s Grendel, but not recently, and I have to admit, I don’t remember it that well. I do remember that it was from Grendel’s point of view and sympathetic toward him.

    As for Beowulf himself being a bit dull: I suppose, but then complex characters and character development aren’t really the point of the poem. I find certain things about him interesting. For instance, it’s curious how often he fights without a sword or, if he has a sword, it fails. In the fight with the dragon, the poet says he is too strong for swords. This rather suggests that he started out with supernatural strength and sort of got downgraded to human.

    I find Grendel’s mother more sympathetic than Grendel. She is avenging her son’s death; he kills and eats people because he doesn’t like the noise.

    As for Vinland; yes, they entirely ignore Bjarni as well as Karlsefni and Gudrid and Freydis. As for the date, well I passed over that. I mean they say that “Beowulf began his monster-slaying career in 515 AD,” so….

    The name Vinland: yes, it’s a very fraught topic. I was going to mention that, in the sagas, it seems to refer both to the main settlement in Newfoundland and, in general, to pretty much everywhere they explored in the New World. (But they bloody well didn’t call the whole shebang “Markland.”) Both sagas are absolutely adamant that it means Vine- or Wine-land. In the one (Greenlanders’ Saga, I believe), the author even emphasizes that it was a German who found the grape vines and recognized what they were (Norway, Iceland and Greenland not being particularly known for their viniculture). Of course, the sagas could have gotten it wrong–they contradict each other constantly.

    Oh, in his introduction, Hovind says Noah built the Ark 1650 years after the Creation, so that’s right in line with his dissertation.

  4. [...] part two, click here. Share this:ShareEmailTwitterDiggRedditPrintStumbleUponFacebookLike this:Like2 bloggers like this [...]

  5. Bill Keller says:

    Very fun read. Now I have another blog to keep up with. :)

  6. tungl says:

    Do Hovind and Gibbons say anything about the nature of Grendel as he is decribed in the poem? A descendant of Cain, whose monstrous offspring is cursed to live as outcasts forever?
    I mean, with their Christian mission in mind (and their trust in medieval theological lengends á la St. Columba) I would expect them to not just dismiss a connection like this…
    So, are dinosaurs really just the carriers of the curse of Cain? because that would make so much more sense!

    • Bob says:

      Eve, was it Hovind who said that Grendel was a juvenile T-Rex? Or was that at the Creation Museum? The idea that those little dino arms pop right off was a bit of a scream. :)

      • Eve says:

        That was Bill Cooper.

        The cryptozoological creationists don’t seem to mention the race of Cain thing (which is actually a bit complicated). I guess it doesn’t fit if you think Grendel is a dinosaur.

  7. David Evans says:

    “But that’s just one foot of indeterminate size.”

    I like it. In fact I like the whole post. You are forgiven for your thoughtless remark that cryptozoologists “may be loopy”.

    I remind you, Sir, that the gorilla first entered Western consciousness through native descriptions and was thought to be a legend.

    Confession: I have spent more time than was sensible lurking around Loch Ness, camera in hand. In mitigation I plead that:

    1 I was not hoping for a plesiosaur. A large eel or a sturgeon, maybe, or a hypothetical long-necked seal.

    2 The scenery is great anyway.

    • Bob says:

      I have a feeling that cryptozoologists would do well to take the tact of field biologists, who go out, survey ecosystems systematically and catalog what they find, collecting tangible samples. Eventually, if enough people do that, we will identify the relationships between the species, which will bring out whether there is room for cryptids.

      • Bob says:

        For the record, I do not believe that you are the Edge. I just had to get that out there.

      • Eve says:

        Ah, but that would be falling in to the trap Hovind warns against–collecting data, making observations and then coming to conclusions that don’t fit Hovind’s work view.

  8. tungl says:

    Thanks for the clarification. I just thought that given the authors’ background it might be interesting to see what happens when the (pseudo-)biological model of Grendels nature clashes with the religious one given by the source text (which, I agree, is more complicated than that). To be honest, their whole argument is so absurd that I don’t see how it could be made any worse by extending it to “Grendel is a dinosaur, and dinosaurs are the descendents of Cain”. Or something.

    But damn, I wanna read Beowulf II: The Lost Years so hard…!

    • Eve says:

      But if dinosaurs are of the race of Cain, they wouldn’t have been on the Ark (not even babies or young ones). If, however, they were of the race of Ham (and in one instance the MS says “Cames,” which suggests (C)ham rather than Cain), then you’ve got whole different kettle of crazy.

      As for Beowulf II, if it’s all about clearing shipping lanes and, I don’t know, building roads, then maybe it’s just as well the poet skipped ahead fifty years.

  9. andrewD says:

    Eve and Bob,
    If you are interested in crypto-zoology you might like to look at some of Darren Naish’s posts at Tetrapod Zoology:- here

    http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/tetrapod-zoology/

    Andrew

  10. Ken says:

    Another recommendation for reading, or possibly even review: Deadly Powers: Animal Predators and the Mythic Imagination by Paul A. Trout (ISBN 978-1-61614-501-9, or 502-6 if you want the e-book).

    One of his points is that you don’t need dinosaurs when you consider some of the creatures that we know were walking around with (or more likely, chasing and eating) early humans. He also says that they are sufficient explanation for any number of legends of dragons, ogres, and other monsters.

  11. Pacal says:

    If you are interested their is a book by Barbara Ehrenreich called Blood Rites that postulates that the emergence of man in an enviroment filled with dangerous, ferocious carnivores played a role in how humans regard war, sacrifice and the sacred.

    Basically the idea is that man spent much of his time not just being a hunter and gatherer but also he/she was prey. The African savanna and forests were filled with all sorts of carnivores that preyed on early man and his/her ancestors. Included in thias list of deadly enemies was a couple of species of now extinct very big cats. (Big bad Phuddy tats.) It wasn’t just a time of man the hunter but of man the hunted.

    THe idea is is the propititary sacrifice in part emerged from the process by which members of band were hunted and killed by carnivores and in the process left other members of the band alone.

    The idea is that sacrifice to the Gods emerged as a similar way of propitiating the forces of nature.

  12. bgibb50 says:

    Thank you for reviewing my first book.

    During the initial planning stages, I provided kent Hovind with some basic material, but Kent wrote almost the entire manuscript. But I am grateful for at least having my name on the cover. The best part of Claws, Jaws & Dinosaurs, was the wonderful artwork provided by wildlife artists Bill Rebsamen, who has also worked for some of the top scientific minds in cryptozoology, including Dr. Karl Shuker.

    Let me state quite simply that I do not agree with all of Kent’s assertions in the book, and this goes for much of his teachings. However, my two later books, ‘Missionaries and Monsters,’ and ‘Mokele-mbembe, Mystery Beast of the Congo Basin,’ are, in my opinion, much better efforts. Not because I wrote them, but because I did considerably more (careful) research, and this is evident in my book devoted to Mokele-mbembe.

    I am currently working on my fourth tome, devoted to the mystery animals of equatorial Africa. Again, like the Mokele-mbembe tome, there will be virtually no creationism at all in it. After all, cryptozoology and creationism are not mutually exclusive, in spite of the erroneous, embarrassing and luaghable claims makde by my fellow creationists regarding “living dinosaurs,” for which there is virtually no solid evidence anyway!

    Best Wishes,

    Bill Gibbons

  13. [...] this year, I wrote (twice) about an outrage to sense, science, history, folklore, grammar, punctuation and all that is good [...]

  14. [...] "For the Love of Yeti, Bigfooters, Read a Primary Source." – Skeptical Humanities: "Crypto-Creationism 2: Return of the Killer Crapgasm." – "Ancient Mysteries: Bigfoot." A&E. Originally aired as season 1, episode 1 on [...]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,647 other followers

%d bloggers like this: