A Forensic Case Study: Missing Kayaker Identified 21 Years Later

Here’s a good article demonstrating how difficult it is for scientists to piece together the past based on evidence. Scientists attempt convince their audience that their conclusions about certain fossilized remains are that of ape-like ancestors on the path to human evolution. But here’s a story highlighting some of the pitfalls that lead to incorrect conclusions.

On August 18, 1994, Patricia L. Tamosaitis, then 56, disappeared while kayaking. She was presumed to have drowned at Snow Hole Rapids, Idaho when her kayak flipped in a rapid, but her body was never found.

Then on July 20, 1996, a human skull was found along a sandbar in Salmon River, about one-third of a mile down from where the accident happened. Later a humerus bone was found in the same area. But the skull was determined to be that of a 17-20 year-old Native American male who had died about 20 years earlier. University of Idaho anthropology professor Donald Tyler was a nationally and internationally recognized expert in the field, so his conclusions were accepted as the best explanation of the data.

But the story doesn’t end there. Fortunately not everyone accepted the scientific conclusions as fact. In 2012, lingering doubts prompted Detective Jerry Johnson to send the remains for DNA extraction to see if they could be identified. At that time, however, the evaluation determined the skull wasn’t likely to be that of Tamosaitis. According to the report, “its eroded condition and absence of all soft tissue would likely require greater than two years in a riverine environment.”

It wasn’t until May of 2015 that the lab at the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification was able to extract DNA from the remains using new, more sophisticated techniques, and on December 22, 2015 the family was finally informed that the remains were indeed those of Patricia L. Tamosaitis.

So what does this teach us about human evolution? I think it’s clear that many scientific claims about human evolution are incorrect. Scientists claim certain fossils were formed millions of years ago, such as Australopithecines, and they consider them to be human ancestors. But how do they reach these conclusions, and why are they accepted as truth?

The Tamosaitis story is a good example of how forensic science works, while also exposing its limitations. Forensic (or historical) science relies on evidence from the past being interpreted based on certain assumptions until a conclusion is reached. If it’s considered to be the best explanation of the data available, then it’s accepted by the scientific community as valid.

However the weakness of forensic science is that it relies on untestable and unprovable assumptions about the past- and in the case of evolution, the far distant past. If an expert scientist has trouble identifying a 56 year old female skull, and misidentifies it as a 17-20 year old Native American that had died 20 years prior, then how likely is it that scientist’s claims about supposed human ancestors living four million years ago are correct? I’d argue that it’s very unlikely.

In fact new evidence is constantly coming to light, casting doubt on these ancient fossils. So whenever we hear claims that a certain fossil is likely to be a human ancestor, we are right to be skeptical and reject such claims. I believe it’s far more rational to believe that God created humans in his image, and therefore we didn’t evolve from some unknown non-human ancestor.

Detective Johnson sums up how these unprovable assumptions about the past can lead to incorrect conclusions. He said, “I can understand part of their confusion. They underestimated the power of the rivers we have here in Idaho County.” Mix in both their force with sand scouring, “and you’ll have a lot of erosion.”

And that’s how evolutionary stories develop; scientists often over or under estimate certain conditions, and then formulate their conclusions around their belief in evolution. But when new evidence comes to light, it often contradicts previous conclusions.


3 thoughts on “A Forensic Case Study: Missing Kayaker Identified 21 Years Later

  1. Detective Johnson’s statement, “They underestimated the power of the rivers we have here in Idaho County”, reminded me of Peter’s statement in 2 Peter 3:5,6: “They deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished.” If scientists reject the belief that a worldwide flood occurred they have to assume the earth is old in order to explain the evidence they find.

    • Exactly. Their belief system requires them to use mostly uniformitarian models to explain the data, and it’s these assumptions that pigeon hole them into incorrect conclusions. Thanks for mentioning 2 Peter 3, love those verses.

  2. Pingback: Things I have read on the internet – 16 | clydeherrin

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