Periodicals; Mormons; Religious thought; Philosophy and religion
Independent national quarterly established to express Mormon culture and examine the relevance of religion to secular life. It is edited by Mormons who wish to bring their faith into dialogue with human experience as a whole and to foster artistic and scholarly achievement based on their cultural heritage. The journal encourages a variety of viewpoints; although every effort is made to insure accurate scholarship and responsible judgment, the views expressed are those of the individual authors and are not necessarily those of the Mormon Church or of the editors.
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Rees, Robert A.
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Geological Specimen Rejuvenates an Old Controversy I i^g Melvin A. Cook, then Professor of Metallurgy at the University of Utah, describes the find as a "most remarkable specimen of a fossil human footprint." He concludes that it raises "a serious contradiction of conventional geology." In this same issue the finder, William J. Meister, Sr., then Drafting Supervisor, Bacchus Works, Utah Hercules Incorporated, describes the circumstances of discovery in detail and refers to his specimen without any doubt or qualifications as a human footprint. He describes also the finding of other footprints at the same locality including one of a "barefoot child." From what is reported by Meister a large number of prints must have been taken out but to my knowledge none but the original has been illustrated. Mr. Meister affirms that the Bible alone explains how evidences of human beings can be found with trilobites. He hints that Noah's Flood enters the picture but doesn't explain how. A final contribution is that of Leland J. Davis, then a consulting geologist, who describes the geology of the area in detail so as to leave no doubt as to the authenticity of the Cambrian age of the Wheeler Shale at the site of discovery. He also lists by name the fossils that are found in the formation but omits any reference to the "footprint." I am not at all surprised that many persons unacquainted with fossils or the reactions of rocks in the field should accept this as a genuine human footprint. Neither am I surprised that the whole affair should immediately take on emotionally religious overtones. I am surprised, however, by certain published statements of the discoverer. According to Mr. Meister, Dr. Cook recommended that the specimen be shown to geologists at the University of Utah but he (Meister) was "not able to find one who would take time to examine it." I cannot reconcile this statement with the fact that I spent most of an afternoon with Mr. Meister and two of his colleagues who brought their specimen to my office after I had willingly agreed to examine it. After seeing the specimen I explained to Mr. Meister why I could not accept it as a footprint and why geologists in general would not accept it. At the very least, we would expect a true footprint to be one of a sequence showing right and left prints somewhat evenly spaced, of the same size and progressing regularly in one direction. A true footprint should also show displacement or squeezing aside of the soft material into which the foot was pressed. Footprints must obviously be pressed downward into the original soft material, anything with the depression oriented the opposite way; that is, upward, cannot be a footprint. From my examination of this specimen I can say that there is no evidence of squeezing or pushing aside of the matrix. As to the up and down orientation of the impression I cannot say and it would be difficult to determine now that it has been removed from the strata. It is most significant that no other matching prints were obtained. I know of no instance where a solitary one-of-a-kind impression has been accepted and reported in a scientific journal as a genuine footprint no matter how well-preserved it might be. I unhesitatingly assert that this is not a footprint. I have observed and collected a number of types of footprints that meet all the critical requirements and I have had no qualms about describing these in print even though some were totally new. The Meister specimen is the result of a natural break which happens to resemble a footprint. This type of fracture is called spalling and the part which breaks out or is detached is called a spall. Spalling commonly takes place in homo-