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by Brian Dunning, Jul 16 2009
The "PoTo" Artifact

The "PoTo" Artifact

Some readers may be familiar with the “Coso Artifact”, a 1920-era Champion spark plug found inside a chunk of rock. Young Earth Creationists have pointed to this as evidence against evolution. Skeptics, however, find no such proof in the artifact. When ferrous metals are buried in earth, they often rapidly form iron oxide concretions incorporating the surrounding sediment.

This is a chunk of pipe that my son found in Port Townsend, Washington last week. I presume it’s steel. Note how parts of it are completely eaten away, while other parts have ballooned to the point of filling the center of the pipe completely with just such a concretion.

Uber cool… it’s like our very own Coso Artifact. As it’s from Port Townsend, I’m calling it the “PoTo” Artifact.

A quickie visual inspection by me does not spot any obvious marine shells or fossils embedded within the concretion, as were said to be found in the Coso Artifact (the actual artifact is lost to time and its owner long dead). However, such items are certainly found in the much about Port Townsend, and I would have every expectation of finding them if a thorough examination were done under a microscope.

Strangely, the Creationist claim to the Coso Artifact as evidence against evolution is not what you’d expect. I figured the reason was that it proves mineral formations can form in only a few decades, thus everything we see on Earth is consistent with a young age. But no, that’s not what was said at all. The Institute for Creation Research’s Donald Chittick mischaracterized it as a geode, then went on to say that the Coso Artifact proves ancient civilizations had advanced technology, which is inconsistent with “evolution”.

Will someone please slap me on the forehead, and give me a list of how many things are wrong with that?


  1. MadScientist says:

    Pierre Stromberg’s 2004 article for the NCSE does a great job of pointing out all that’s wrong with that statement (and a pretty good summary of what’s known of the Coso artifact). Can I give you that slap on the forehead anyway?

  2. Kallan.G says:

    I don’t know if I

  3. Kallan.G says:

    Can get past WTF even.


  4. Hank says:

    Geesh, where’d you get your intel on Donald Chittick? He has his own organization (Creation Compass, I think), but has never been employed by the Institute for Creation Research. I’ll give you that slap now. WHAP!

    • RBH says:

      Never underestimate the breadth of creation “scientists.” Chittick has Creation Compass, is (or has been) an adjunct professor of chemistry at ICR, and has a bio on AIG. See here for details:

      Dr Chittick earned his Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry from Oregon State University. For many years, he served as chairman of the division of Natural Sciences at George Fox University in Oregon. Since 1988, he has been an adjunct professor of chemistry at the Institute for Creation Research in the San Diego area.

      He gets around!

  5. Glen Martin says:

    “…give me a list of how many things are wrong with that?”

    Er, everything?

  6. Rachael says:

    Well, the most painful thing is that the guy obviously has no clue what a geode is to begin with. What, did they crack the thing open and find crystals inside?

    Or is he saying that geodes are somehow proof of ancient technology?

    I can’t parse this. It’s too stupid.

  7. Brian M says:

    “… say that the Coso Artifact proves ancient civilizations had advanced technology, which is inconsistent with “evolution””

    I am laughing so hard right now. This is the funniest thing I have heard all day.

    Even if older civilizations had more technology (such as the mythical atlantis), all it proves is that europeans, asians, africans, were all moronic compared to their amazingly brilliant “advanced technology” wielding counterparts.

    Its sad when even their lies are consistent with evolution. Normally, this is where keyboard cat comes in to play them off…

  8. Slapping creationists for idiotic statements is like spanking a one week old baby for pooping its diaper. It’s what they do and they should receive our empathy for the place they are in.

  9. Bill says:

    One time when I was fishing, I hooked a soda can from the bottom of the lake and reeled it up.

    By Chittick’s logic, this is obviously proof that ancient humanoids drank Coca-Cola(tm) and left that can on the ground before the lake filled.

  10. Appropos of nothing…. Bill’s fishing post reminded me of something that happened to me this spring that freaked me out a bit. I live on the water and was fishing from my canoe a half mile up river from our home. I felt a dead tug on my line and assumed I’d caught a big ol’ blue catfish, which often take your bait and then sit still. I pulled it up to the surface only to see I had snagged not a catfish, but a rusty old garden decoration someone had dumped in the river. What freaked me out was that it was a 3D, tin metal rendition of a full size catfish. (oo-ee-oo-ee-oo-ee).

    It was no longer attached to the metal rod gardeners use to stick it in the ground in their lawns or gardens for a marine theme, just the catfish. Of all the things one might snag off the river bottom, I caught a robocatfish.

  11. tmac57 says:

    You know, it is pretty remarkable that an ancient civilization not only invented the spark plug, but coincidentally named it Champion. What are the odds of that?

  12. Rich says:

    Wow! Go Obama! Did anyone watch the Presidents NAACP speech? He sounded like a black pentecostal holiness preacher? Maybe he got some pointers from the pentecostal preacher Joshua Dubois, the FAITH-BASED Czar that he appointed! More anti-science nonsense in American politics!

    • tmac57 says:

      Obama-“I want them aspiring to be scientists and engineers, doctors and teachers, not just ballers and rappers. I want them aspiring to be a Supreme Court justice. I want them aspiring to be president of the United States of America.”
      Yeah, that sounds really anti-science.

  13. Max says:

    …the Coso Artifact proves ancient civilizations had advanced technology, which is inconsistent with “evolution”.

    Is it consistent with the Bible?

  14. village1diot says:

    so where is the rest of this technology? or did they just make a spark plug for the hell of it, figuring it would come in handy for something?

    “Come on Tiberius, Let us put our new plug spark on this stone…”
    “Try the twig on top of the plug.”
    “Now light it on fire and see what happens!”

  15. Nate says:

    Sorta looks like a slice of fried up bacon.

  16. Colin H says:

    Forget the spark plug. I’ll be impressed when they find the car it goes with.

  17. Maybe it’s part of an alien space craft. You know, back in the day when they were powered by combustion engines. They’re more environmentally friendly now. They run on dreams and wishes.

  18. Mark says:

    HILARIOUS! I had the same thought on what the logical argument would be [that it destroys the geological record & timeline]

    Who knew Atlantis was part of the Creationist myth?

  19. The Blind Watchmaker says:

    I have one of those. I think it’s under my porch.

  20. My nephew has a dog pen full of those things.

  21. Tmac! I went over to my nephew’s today. all the artifacts in his dog pen are slowing turning white! What does it mean? WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

  22. Pierre Stromberg says:

    Hi, I just stumbled upon this conversation while doing some internet searches and wanted to point out that the most up to date version of the article is on

    Just to let you know, even though Donald Chittick wouldn’t acknowledge his error when I showed him a version of my article prior to publication, he has since quietly disavowed his previous claims to the Coso Artifact.

    However, he still asserts that ancient civilizations possessed technology far more advanced than our own. His theories are presented in his book, “The Puzzle of Ancient Man”.

    Pierre Stromberg

  23. catsnjags says:

    What is wrong with all of you people? Everyone is missing the obvious regarding this object’s purpose.

    a) it is incased in rock
    b) it is old
    c) ancient civilizations built several objects (ie:pyramids) that seem impossible to build.

    this is obviously an early prototype of a rock levitator. The later versions were MUCH larger and used to heft the stones at stonehendge, the pyramids, etc.

    why didn’t anyone see this???

  24. Mike Bennett says:

    “I figured the reason was that it proves mineral formations can form in only a few decades, thus everything we see on Earth is consistent with a young age.”

    Good point! Why wouldn’t this be a problem for evolution?