Click here to view CMI's position on climate change.

Feedback archiveFeedback 2016

Ica stones, Acambaro figurines, and good arguments

Published: 1 October 2016 (GMT+10)
Controversial finds like the Ica stones do not provide a good argument against deep time because their authenticity is questionable.

Today’s feedback comes from Ross C. from the United Kingdom, who asks why we don’t cite certain controversial finds (such as the Ica stones and the Acambaro figurines) as powerful evidence against the evolutionary timescale. CMI’s Shaun Doyle points out some of the problems with using them in arguments for biblical creation, even if they are genuine.

I’ve recently been reading a lot about evidences for Dinosaurs and humans coexisting, and find the evidence compelling, however I was slightly disheartened that CMI reported that the Ica stones are hoaxes. I have done some further research and some very credible ministries—such as Apologetics press—have defended the authenticity of some of the Ica stones (not all) and also the Julstrud collection. Firstly, what is CMI’s position on the Julstrud collection as I could not find a clear statement in your articles? And secondly, do CMI believe the Ica stones are certainly hoaxes, or are CMI just maintaining a healthy skepticism towards them and an open mind to the possibility of their authenticity? I very much enjoy your articles on dragons and dinosaurs and hope to see more in the future.

CMI’s Shaun Doyle responds:

These finds are controversial, with considerable understandable skepticism regarding their significance. Apologetics isn’t just about finding an argument that is valid and true, but it must also be plausible in the context in which we present it. Let’s formalize the argument:

  • If the Ica stones/Acambaro figurines predate modern paleontology, the evolutionary timescale is false.
  • The Ica stones/Acambaro figurines predate modern paleontology.
  • Therefore, the evolutionary timescale is false.

This is a logically valid argument, and let’s say it’s also sound; i.e. the premises are true. Does this alone make the argument convincing? Not necessarily. The premises may be true, but not well supported with evidence, or there might be counter evidence that’s hard to explain, or acceptance of the premise may require the rejection of a deeply intuitive bias. In the case of both the Ica stones and the Acambaro figurines, at least the first two apply—the stories rely heavily on anecdotal evidence, and there is some uncomfortable counter evidence in both cases (numerous known cases of fraud and secrecy with the Ica stones, and reasonably powerful circumstantial evidence of fraud for the Acambaro figurines). Have I thereby disproved conclusively the Ica stones and Acambaro figurines? No. But I have warrant to be suspicious about them, and that’s not a good basis to make a convincing argument from.

The proponents of these finds know they’re unlikely to get an audience in the secular literature, but there is always the creationist literature. Why don’t they submit their studies to peer-reviewed creationist publications, such as the Journal of Creation? Creationists don’t have the ingrained perspectival bias against these finds that evolutionists do, but neither will they just accept these finds at face value; we want to see the evidence. It’s as likely place as any that they will find a fair hearing. But until they submit their finds to get a fair hearing from their peers, the rest of us have reason to be suspicious about these finds.

Compare this to a convincing argument for biblical creation, such as soft tissue in dinosaur bones. It was an inconvenient fact for evolution discovered and popularized by long-agers, has survived considerable skeptical scrutiny to convince the majority of long-age researchers, and now the long-agers are struggling to explain how it could be accommodated within their own timeframe. Clearly we have a much more confident place from which to argue in this area; most long-agers agree with us on the facts of the case. It’s the straightforward implication/interpretation that these bones must be much younger than 65 million years old that they struggle with.

Here’s the main point—we should make sure our arguments are not only valid and sound, but also convincing; i.e. that we have solid warrant for the premises of our arguments.

Helpful Resources

Dragons of the Deep
by Carl Wieland
US $16.00
Hard Cover
US $10.00

Readers’ comments

stephen S.
Hi , so has any one from CMI actually gone there to look for themselves, [doesn't sound like it]. I thought you guys would/should at the very least go and check it out before you rubbish it
Shaun Doyle
No, we have not. However, do we have the appropriate expertise? We have no trained archaeologists on staff. So why would our investigations be more credible than someone like Charles Di Peso, who had relevant archaeological training when he investigated the Julstrud collection, and concluded that they were likely not authentic? This is precisely why we would request people with the appropriate expertise to check out these claims via proper archaeological methods and document their findings in a peer-reviewed setting.

But there's another problem. Even if evolutionists came to accept the authenticity of these finds, would they reject deep time? No. They would most likely reject the first premise of my syllogism. In other words, they would say that these finds are compatible with deep time. There are arguments out there already that say dragon legends are based on ancient people's interaction with dinosaur fossils. Why wouldn't the long-ager just apply this sort of argument to these finds?
Evangelos N.
I agree that a healthy skepticism appears to be the most sure course of action given the present state of the evidence. However, there are 2 things about the Ica stones and the Acambaro figurines that have been bugging me for the last few days and which prevent me from dismissing them altogether:

The first is the sheer number of artifacts. The Ica Stones are said to number around 15,000 and the Acambaro figurines around 30,000. If all of these were fakes, then surely the hoaxers would have needed an army of craftsmen to produce all of them in the short time-span required. I understand if we were talking about one or two dubious artifacts. But tens of thousands!? Surely, at least some must be authentic.

The second impression I can't shake off is the accuracy of the representations of dinosaurs in the artifacts. If the etchings on the stones and the figurines were fakes, then we would expect them to be modeled on the representations of dinosaurs current in the 1940s. But that is not what we find: the Iguanodon, for instance, is correctly depicted as walking on all fours, contrary to the "Godzilla" pose popular in the early 20th century; the "Brontosaurus" is depicted with the correct Apatosaurid head, a realization that scientists did not make - I believe - until the 1970s; moreover, many dinosaurs are presented in active poses, an idea that was only generally disseminated following Bakker's 1986 book The Dinosaur Heresies.

I know this isn't much, but any theory must start somewhere. Thank you for the interesting article!
Shaun Doyle
Thanks for a thoughtful response. Regarding the number, this can actually be interpreted as evidence against their authenticity. Regarding the Julstrud collection, how can so many artifacts of a specific type be so well preserved? This is more implausible than the idea that these artifacts were produced by a local cottage industry making them for money. With the Ica stones, we know they have been produced for at least the last 400 years or so, since the natives found Europeans were often willing to pay for them. That certainly gives plenty of time for 15,000 of these stones to have been made.

Regarding the representations of the dinosaurs, that is actually part of the problem. In both collections, most of the dinosaur depictions resemble mid 20th century depictions of dinosaurs. Either that, or they show sufficient artistic licence to be hard to interpret in any way. In essence, we need more information about the archaeological context for these finds, which is precisely what we lack with regard to the Ica stones.

And remember, even if we might find that, on balance, we're willing to give these finds the benefit of the doubt, the skeptic in these finds cannot be dismissed as unreasonable, given all the information we all have access to. As such, it's still unlikely to be a successful argument, since the intellectual cost of rejecting the second premise is minimal.
murk P.
Shaun I agree with the main thrust of your article - and as always I so appreciate that you guys tackle any issue including this one.

As you say true premises are defined as sound.

This means that warrant (justification) has already been obtained.

It seems to me by stating that we need a solid warrant for a sound premise is stating the same thing twice.

And using the word convincing can be conflated with high pressure persuasion - in the sense of relegating truth to the back seat while letting emotional appeals and such ride in the front - which i know you do not promote.

In today's world politicians seem to prefer this approach. The little boy who leads Canada is well practiced at the fine art of "persuasive" non answers.

The foundations are being eroded - since we are not going the same direction as those who reject truth - we must not succumb to this tactic.

As David we must not learn anything about the fine art of spear throwing. Though he had to dodge a couple of spears he did not violate one of the commands the Maker clearly revealed (not subject to debate or uncertainty)

(even though it might have seemed like a good idea at the time and many men would have praised his "courage" if he did return the spear at high velocity)

Thank you for having the courage to exhort us believers to do the hard work of examining information to see if these things are true
- and not take short cuts for an apparent gain

In fact I agree with you that anyone who utilizes a shaky claim not based on revelation as a trump card is sorely missing the mark. And will be shaken when the storms come. (ie if they do not have justification for the premises.)

God has furnished us with ample avenues to certainty its just that evil hearts get in the way and want to take short cuts
Shaun Doyle
I think you’ve misunderstood me a bit. What I meant to say is that an argument (not a premise) is formally sound if the reasoning is (formally) logically valid and the premises are true. However, just because an argument is sound does not mean we have been given appropriate warrant to believe the conclusion (this is what I mean by ‘an argument not being convincing’; it’s an epistemic issue, not a rhetorical one). For instance, consider this syllogism:

  • Either God exists or Jupiter is made of wood

  • Jupiter is not made of wood

  • Therefore, God exists.

This argument is sound; i.e. the reasoning is valid (it’s a valid disjunctive syllogism) and the premises are true. However, we do not have appropriate warrant for believing the conclusion based on this argument. Why? The only reason given to believe the 1st premise is that we already believe the conclusion. In other words, this is a circular argument. As such, soundness does not by itself make an argument a good one.

Moreover, a premise can be true without us having any evidence for it. Consider, for instance, the existence of Neptune. Before 1846, we had not directly observed it. And for a long time in human history, we had no access to evidence for Neptune’s existence. Does that mean that the statement ‘Neptune exists’ was false in e.g. 300 BC? Of course not! Both Neptune and the evidence for it were always there; we just didn’t have the ability to discern it in 300 BC.
Dan M.
Most assuredly some at least are frauds. Think about it? People see an opportunity to make money, (a market) and they seize that opportunity and this case is no different! Some creationists are only to eager to buy these items to shove them into atheist's faces.
Fraudulent art has been a market for ever since we have existed and that's why we have experts to verify authenticity. That doesn't mean I believe all are fakes. On the contrary there are many other confirmed artifacts that point to man's existence with dragons (let's dump the modern term dinosaurs).
It doesn't matter how much evidence we creationists provide; the majority of the world will not listen because they are in rebellion and having a good time (for now at least).
God is teaching me not to be anxious about proving any evidence to anybody but in peace and understanding be ready to give a defence to those who will listen.
Not to sound harsh but if they just want to argue, do yourself a favor and walk away kicking the dust from your feet (Mat 10:14). Only God can change a heart!
God bless!
M. K.
I acknowledge your scepticism, but I think they are probably authenitc. I think some of them may have an iguanodon with it´s thumb correctly in place instead of on its nose, which confirms their authenticity. Also, I think the Paluxy Tracks are likely to be authentic as well, after all, the skeptic argument that it´s a dinosaur walking on its knees doesn´t work because the footprints change their relative position too much. I know that there are very clever and knowledgable creationists like Ian Juby that hold these to be authentic, but I understand perfectly well that some creationists may be cautious about them, because healthy scepticism is always good in science.
Shaun Doyle
My article isn't really about the truth of these claims. Indeed, I acceded the truth of these claims for the sake of argument (though I personally am thoroughly skeptical of them). The point is that even if genuine these finds as they stand are bad arguments for biblical creation.

For instance, how do most of the 32,000 Acambaro figurines survive with little erosion, and even fine details intact, for centuries to millennia? That's highly implausible. And Julstrud said that he paid the locals for every figurine they brought him. So here we have motive for faking the figurines; money. Just these two points alone cast great suspicion over the whole collection.

Regarding the Ica stones, the problem revolves around one Basilio Uschuya, a farmer local to the region of the stones, who seems to have given conflicting stories on the origin of the stones to different people. He told some he made them (apparently to avoid being prosecuted for tomb looting), and he told others (privately) that he found them in tombs (that he seems to only take supporters of the stones' authenticity to see). Who is this guy lying to? Moreover, the stones seem to be reasonably easy to fake. Indeed, even supporters admit that some of the stones are modern forgeries (judged mostly by what was carved into the stones). Some may be genuine, but with all the conflicting information, and the lack of context for the stones or proper archaeological investigation, there's just no way to know.

On the Paluxy tracks, please see geologist Dr Emil Silvestru's analysis Human and dinosaur fossil footprints in the Upper Cretaceous of North America?

These finds are not regarded as dubious just because they contradict deep time; they are dubious because there are just too many contradictions in the stories about them.

Comments are automatically closed 14 days after publication.