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(Part 2 of 6, continued from previous message. Copyright 1991 by the National Center for Science Education. Redistributed in the Evolution Echo by permission of the author.) Fossil Gold Chains _Ex Nihilo_ In an article in the _Australian Geologist_, Plimer (1986, pp. 6- 7) criticizes Andrew Snelling, a creationist geologist of the Australian Creation Science Foundation (CSF). Plimer writes that "Other enlightened new data by Snelling are reports in the CSF literature of the occurrence of fossil gold chains and iron anchors in Australian coal seams." In his debate with Gish, Plimer said, "A year ago I challenged someone to give me a gold chain from a coal seam in this country. I offered $20,000. ... I haven't dropped a penny yet." (The publicized offer was $20,000 to charity and $5,000 to the finder; see Plimer 1987b, where he says "the CSF alleges that fossilised gold chains are found within the coal seams in the Newcastle area." This challenge, in _The Newcastle Herald_, followed Plimer's (1987a) earlier claim in the same newspaper that "the creationist literature reports fossil gold chains and iron anchors in coal seams at Newcastle" and that "creationists call this science and wish to teach this as part of the school syllabus.") But Snelling (1988, p. 18) denied ever making such a claim, anywhere, and challenged Plimer to produce evidence of it. David Malcolm (1987) also challenged Plimer to show just where such claims are made in the creationist literature. Plimer has not done so. In correspondence with me (personal communication, April 8, 1991), Plimer stated that claims about fossil gold chains appeared in the CSF's _Ex Nihilo Technical Journal_, which is _edited_ by Snelling: "it is this editorial responsibility I refer to," writes Plimer. In the first five volumes of the _Ex Nihilo Technical Journal_, published between 1984 and 1991, there appears only one article dealing with coal (Snelling & Mackay 1984). This article contains no mention of fossil gold chains or iron anchors in coal seams. The only thing published by the CSF remotely resembling Plimer's "fossil gold chains and iron anchors" in coal is this sentence: "When Dr. Andrew Snelling and John Mackay were researching the Newcastle coal measures recently, they came across a fossilised bolt from an old shipwreck." (Mackay 1986, p. 10) This article, which was neither authored by Snelling nor in a publication edited by Snelling, makes it clear that the bolt was not found in coal. The CSF maintains that Plimer has simply fabricated the claim. In the Gish debate, Plimer spoke of "some marvelous revelations [by creationists] ... one of them is that we find fossilized iron bolts and fossilized gold chains ... within the fossil record," suggesting that this article is indeed the "enlightened new data" he is referring to. Analysis: Plimer somehow managed to turn a claimed fossilized iron bolt into "fossil gold chains and iron anchors," put them into coal seams, and attribute the whole claim to Andrew Snelling. He then made a challenge to the creationists to come up with evidence to support what is in fact a straw man of his own creation. He also used the bogus "gold chains in coal seams" claim in his debate with Gish: since gold was brought to Australia in 1788 and coal discovered there in 1791, if these coal seams were created by the biblical flood, the flood must have occurred between those years. Q.E.D., _reductio ad absurdum_. A solid counterargument to a claim that wasn't made. Barry Price and _The Creation Science Controversy_ Another Australian creationism opponent is science teacher and former Religious Education Officer for Sydney's Catholic Education Office (CEO), Barry Price. Price is the author of the ironically titled _The Creation Science Controversy_ (Price 1990), which he produced by revising and expanding an earlier booklet, _The Bumbling, Stumbling, Crumbling Theory of Creation Science_. According to Price, this booklet, published by the CEO, was pulled from publication some two months after its release in response to threat of legal action (Price 1990, p. viii)(5) It looks like a similar fate may be in store for _The Creation Science Controversy_, as he and his publisher are presently in court, charged with defamation (more on this below). The book is polemical--light on science and heavy on _ad hominem_ argument. Its goals are apparently more political than scientific; it is written not for the scientist or seasoned creationist observer, but to persuade the layman that creationism is a hoax and a fraud. Its most powerful arguments against creationism may be found elsewhere in more detail and greater precision. The book has prompted a response from the CSF (1991), titled _A Response to Deception_, now in its third revised edition. The creationist response correctly notes that "Price's attack is largely not concerned with the realm of science" and goes on to say that the book is "full of error, distortion and worse." In a mostly positive review of Price's book, Australian Skeptic Martin Bridgstock (1990) wrote that Price's book "is clear and punchy, occasionally veering into stridency" and is "peppered with errors." (He goes on to say that these errors are "minor--none approaching creationist whoppers.") While many of _A Response to Deception_'s criticisms are quite minor (e.g., typographical errors), others are more serious. For example, Price parrots Ian Plimer's fossil gold chains argument (Price 1990, pp. 39-40). But he insists that there are no major errors in his book (Price 1991) and has enumerated the CSF charges as follows: 15 typographical errors, 63 differences of opinion, and no serious errors (personal communication, February 11, 1991). An errata sheet has been issued for the book, correcting 34 mistakes. Analysis: Barry Price has not exercised proper care in authenticating the evidence he presents in his book (more evidence of this will be presented below). In the case of Ian Plimer's "fossil gold chains" claim, Price should have been aware that every time Plimer published the claim, a rebuttal has been issued in the same publication (Malcolm 1987; Snelling 1988). Yet Price never mentions these rebuttals and appears to have made no attempt to find the claim in the creationist literature.(6)


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