It always comes as a shock to encounter (or read news stories about) otherwise functioning and reasonably coherent 21st century adults — some of them with important jobs and even positions of public trust — who believe that planet Earth is only a few thousand years old.
Of course, given the basic discoveries of modern science, maintaining such a belief — a belief that most who adhere to it say is dictated by their “literal” interpretation of The Bible — requires a good number of intellectual leaps.
For instance, many believers in “young-Earth Creationism” argue with straight faces that while dinosaurs clearly existed at one time and are now extinct, they walked the earth at the same time as humans and were even present on “Noah’s Ark” — the giant seafaring vessel on which that the biblical character supposedly gathered two of each species — (e.g. mosquitoes, pythons, banana slugs) — so that they could be saved from a giant global flood.
We are not making this up. A large and a well-funded museum in Kentucky imparts this point of view to thousands of visitors every year.
Enter North Carolina Congressman Mark Meadows — one of the most visible and influential conservatives in Washington. In a new article for The New Yorker magazine (“Mark Meadows and the Undisclosed Dinosaur Property: A fight among fossil hunters, a dubious documentary, and the conservative congressman from North Carolina.”), journalist Charles Bethea tells the remarkable and often downright bizarre story of the congressman and his involvement in a longstanding conflict amongst Creationists over a repository of dinosaur fossils on some property in Colorado — property owned at one time by Meadows.
Bethea’s report is full of wacky, head-slapping findings — including:
- the details of the battles between various parties as to who first discovered certain fossils,
- the conflicts over who owned/owns the fossils,
- claims that certain fossils were found in debris indicative that they could be dated to the time of the biblical flood,
- profit-making amongst the Creationists,
- details about various home schooler groups have been brought to the property down through the years,
- word of an affair between a Creationist filmmaker and a woman who alleged, in a lawsuit, that he began grooming her at the age of fifteen; and
- the contents of a documentary film in which Meadows appeared entitled “Raising the Allosaur: The True Story of a Rare Dinosaur and the Home Schoolers Who Found It.”
It also reports that Meadows — a lawmaker who was previously violated ethics laws by failing to disclose land he owned in northeastern North Carolina and who was also cited by the House Ethics Committee for failing to take “prompt and decisive action” to handle alleged sexual harassment in his congressional office — failed to properly disclose his sale of the dinosaur property as required by federal law. This is from the article:
Three years ago, the North Carolina congressman Mark Meadows sold a hundred-and-thirty-four-acre property in Dinosaur, Colorado. The buyer was Answers in Genesis, a Christian nonprofit based in Kentucky, which was founded by the Australian creationist Ken Ham. Answers in Genesis is dedicated to promoting young-Earth creationism, which holds that the Earth was created in six days, several thousand years ago. According to documents related to the sale, Meadows was to be paid about two hundred thousand dollars for the property, in monthly installments, the last of which was paid last year.
Neither the sale nor any such payments are noted on Meadows’s congressional financial disclosures, which he is required by law to file annually.
Bethea speculates that Meadows may have wanted to avoid reporting on the property because of the possible embarrassment of being associated with such a wacky and unflattering story, but whatever the motivations for his failure to make proper discloses, the story makes clear at least two things about the North Carolina congressman:
1) Meadows brings a troubling approach to federal ethics laws that seems utterly predictable for one of President Trump’s top allies, and
2) Meadows has a long history of close relationships with some seriously crazy people and he owes it to his constituents to state plainly — “yes” or “no” — whether he actually believes that dinosaurs and humans once walked the earth at the same time.