Friday, April 20, 2012

Fossil Rim

So, one of the problems with flying in and out of Dallas on my recent trips is that, given how big Texas is as a state, and how bad I've heard the traffic in Dallas itself can be, I find myself wanting to leave wherever I am for the airport hours before I need to be there, just in case there's a delay somewhere along the way and I might miss my ride home. Accordingly, I've been arriving in Dallas with two or three hours to spare before it's time to return the rental car, go through security, &c. Each time I've thought of things it might be interesting to do while in Dallas (like visit the Kennedy assassination museum, or a travelling Genghis Khan exhibit, or the Ft Worth zoo). And each time I've decided to err on the side of caution and given it a miss.

This time, the thing I had my eye on and put off to some hypothetical future trip is a visit to Fossil Rim. This first drew my attention via the posters for it displayed at the Dallas/Ft Worth airport, with great-looking pictures that advertise it as a wildlife safari drive-through; a place where you can see cheetahs laze about in a reasonable approximation of their native habitat and giraffes might poke their noses into your car looking for a tasty morsel.

That sounded great. Then I heard it was also a spot where a lot of dinosaur fossils had been found (hence the name, 'Fossil Rim') and gathered there was an interesting museum there as well. Cheetahs and fossils; better and better.* The only draw-back being the discovery, once I fired up the laptop, that it's not in the Dallas area at all but more than an hour's drive away.

All was not lost, however, given that we planned to drive down that way to and from Austin, making a side-trip either on the way down or (more likely) the way back a possibility.

Then I found out something that put me off the whole thing: that a third feature of the site, in addition to the wildlife safari and the dinosaur fossils, was a Creationist museum. Bad enough that when we took a tour through a Pennsylvania cave few years ago we were subjected to the tour guide's inane comments about Noah's flood having carved all those cave formations -- at least the cave itself was great, and in the gift shop I picked up the best cave map I've ever seen. Here the "Creation Evidence Museum" claimed to feature human and dinosaur footprints found together in the same tracks of stone and similar evidences. Too bad, but that tipped the scales against going by there.

Since getting back and doing a little more research, though, yet another wrinkle has emerged: that this creationist museum isn't actually part of the main park, which is a reputable institution, but something that set up shop outside the gates to take advantage of the genuine fossil site to proselytize their anti-science/anti-evolution point of view. Furthermore, a little more poking about revealed that this particular museum has been denounced and derided by fellow creationists (such as the 'Answers in Genesis' folks) for fraudulent exhibits. Nothing abashed, the Creation Evidence Museum has sponsored a Professor Challenger-style project to find living pteradactyls in New Guinea (why New Guinea? why not!), a mad-scientist scheme to recreate earth's antediluvian atmosphere in a hyperbaric chambers, on the theory that breathing it will enable folks to grow to into Anakim with patriarchal lifespans.

So, now I've swung around and concluded I missed a potentially amusing and interesting site. Maybe another time.

If anyone has made it by Fossil Rim, I'd be interested in hearing what you thought, about the animals, the fossils, and the creationists.

Here's the wikipedia link about the museum:

--John R.

*one minor point about the online site for the place that amused me muchly was a contrast between its having once been the home of dinosaurs and now a good spot for bird-watching -- an ironic juxtaposition, given that more and more scientists are coming round to the position that birds ARE dinosaurs -- not just their descendents, but living species of the same basic category of creatures.

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