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Iron pot in coal (Talk.Origins)

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Response Article
This article (Iron pot in coal (Talk.Origins)) is a response to a rebuttal of a creationist claim published by Talk.Origins Archive under the title Index to Creationist Claims.

Claim CC131:

In 1912, Frank Kennard, an electric plant worker, broke apart a large lump of coal, and an iron cup fell from the center, leaving a cast of the pot in the coal. The coal came from the Wilurton Coal Mines and is about 295 million years old, from the Mid-Pennsylvanian.


  • CEM Online. n.d. The iron cup in coal. (After displaying this page, click on "Museum Displays" in the left sidebar — a direct link to the iron pot page does not work.)

CreationWiki response:

The big problem with this one is that the cup was not discovered in situ but was found at an electric plant after the coal had been processed.

(Talk Origins quotes in blue)

1. The evidence in support of the claim is so weak as to be scientifically useless. The only evidence is a letter from 1948, thirty-six years after the artifact was discovered. The letter says that the coal was not found in situ but went through an unknown amount of processing between the mine and the discovery of the iron cup after the coal was delivered.

Origins science is about history and a letter is appropriate evidence for history. It is better and less equivocal evidence than most of what is put up to support evolution! That said, we agree that it would have been more satisfactory for the iron pot to have been seen half-embedded in a seam.

2. The cup appears to be cast iron, and cast iron technology began in the eighteenth century. Its design is much like pots used to hold molten metals and may have been used by a tinsmith, tinker, or person casting bullets. Without the original pot to analyze, we cannot say exactly how it was used.

This hardly seems relevant. The point of the claim is that something was apparently found where it could not have been found if evolutionary explanations of evidence were true.

Talk Origins' reference to the cup's being cast iron, and cast iron not being invented until the eighteenth century, is irrelevant since, if it did actually come from the coal bed, it would in fact represent evidence that cast iron was a lost art, reinvented in the eighteenth century.

3. The cup was likely dropped by a worker either inside a coal mine or in a mine's surface workings.

It is difficult to imagine why a worker in a coal mine or its top workings would have a container for molten metal, something which has no apparent use in mining operations. Such equipment belongs in a metal workshop and is not casually carried around outside.

Mineralization is common in the coal and surrounding debris of coal mines because rainwater reacts with the newly exposed minerals and produces highly mineralized solutions. Coal, sediments, and rocks are commonly cemented together in just a few years. It could easily appear that a pot cemented in such a concretion could appear superficially as if it were encased in the original coal. Or small pieces of coal, including powder, could have been recompressed around the cup by weight.

This is indeed a possible explanation, though it does not seem to match the account in the original letter:

While I was working in the Municipal Electric Plant in Thomas, Okla in 1912, I came upon a solid chunk of coal which was too large to use. I broke it with a sledge hammer.

An electric plant would want good coal to burn, not a concretion of coal dust, sediments and rocks. The appearance of good coal is not likely to be confused with such a concretion by someone who habitually works with it.

Note also how Talk Origins uses conditional language: "It could easily appear...could appear superficially...could have been recompressed...". In the same way evolutionary story-telling talks about how this animal could have developed into that one. Such a concatenation of speculation does not deserve to be given a great deal of weight.