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Apologetics Press :: Sensible Science

The Dinosaur Controversy
by Bert Thompson, Ph.D.
[Español]
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INTRODUCTION

An unusual discovery in the country of England, over a hundred and fifty years ago, sent scientists scurrying for answers to questions which had never before been asked. In 1822, Gideon Mantell, a medical doctor and fossil collector, went with his wife, Mary Ann, to visit an ailing patient. As Dr. Mantell tended to his duties, Mrs. Mantell took a stroll, and while doing so passed a pile of stones alongside the road. Looking down, she glimpsed some objects—which appeared to be huge fossilized teeth—embedded in the rocks. She showed them to her husband, and together they found their way to the nearby quarry from which the stones had been cut. There they found not only more teeth identical to the first, but several fossilized bones as well.

Dr. Mantell believed that the teeth and bones were the remains of a heretofore undiscovered creature. He showed them to several scientists, and while none of them could accurately identify the fossils, they steadfastly refused to believe that they were from some mysterious, unknown creature of the past. Frustrated, Dr. Mantell sent his finds to the French fossil expert, Baron Cuvier, who (incorrectly, as it turned out) identified the teeth as those of a rhinoceros, and the bones as those of an extinct hippopotamus. Later, Dr. Mantell showed the bones to a friend familiar with the iguana, a lizard living in Mexico and South America. While the fossilized teeth were much larger, his friend declared that they looked just like the teeth of the iguana. Convinced that he had discovered the remains of a giant plant-eating, reptile-like animal, Dr. Mantell named it Iguanodon (“iguana-tooth”). Meanwhile, huge bones and teeth were unearthed in Oxfordshire, and were concluded to have come from Megalosaurus, a lizard-like animal. By 1842, enough of these kinds of fossils had been discovered to convince the leading British anatomist, Sir Richard Owen, that a whole tribe of huge, lizard-like reptiles had lived in the past. He named them “dinosaurs” (from the Greek words deinos and sauros—“terribly great lizards”).

Soon American fossil hunters joined in the search for additional fossils of these amazing creatures. The climax came in March 1877, when two schoolmasters, Arthur Lakes and O.W. Lucas, separately stumbled onto colossal bones projecting from the rocks in two different sections of Colorado. Lakes took his find to the well-known paleontologist, Othniel Marsh. Lucas shared his discovery with Marsh’s bitter rival, Edward Cope. Together, Marsh and Cope became the most famous of the “dinosaur hunters” in the United States. Cope eventually was responsible for naming nine new genera of dinosaurs; Marsh described nineteen. As a result of their work, and that of scientists in other countries, no one who studied the evidence doubted the existence of the dinosaurs.

“THE DINOSAUR CONTROVERSY”

Today, the controversy between evolutionists and creationists centers around the matter of when the dinosaurs existed. A chasm exists between these two groups that never will be bridged—so long as each side maintains its present view.

Evolutionists advocate that dinosaurs evolved from some ancient reptile 200 million years ago, and that they became extinct roughly 65-70 million years ago. Man (in one form or another) allegedly evolved only 2-3 million years ago, and thus was separated from the dinosaurs by approximately 65 million years of geologic time. Creationists who accept Genesis 1-11 as an accurate, historical record of God’s creative activity oppose such claims, and instead maintain that the dinosaurs were created by God within the six literal days described in the biblical record. Thus, man and the dinosaurs would have been created at essentially the same time, and would have lived together as contemporaries on the Earth.

Why is the Controversy Over Dinosaurs so Important?

One thing on which both creationists and evolutionists agree is that dinosaurs make marvelous teaching tools. Rare is the adult—and even more rare is the child—who does not have a keen interest in dinosaurs. These magnificent beasts with the polysyllabic names capture our attention as we fixate on their massive size, their lizard-like skin, or the terror they were apparently able to create as they roamed the Earth. From kindergarten through graduate school, dinosaurs often are used as a tool to indoctrinate students regarding the “fact” of organic evolution. In most public school, college, and university settings, when dinosaurs are discussed, it is in the context of their evolutionary origin, development, and extinction. Students are told that these wondrous animals evolved from some ancient reptile into what we now know as birds. In such a setting, it is commonplace to use the dinosaurs to instruct simultaneously on the ancient nature of the Earth and/or Universe.

What effect does this kind of teaching have on young minds? Because almost all youngsters have a fascination with dinosaurs, and because teachers are among the most trusted of all adults, children often accept without question evolutionary dogma and its accompanying concept of an ancient Earth. With what result? If testimony from many of the evolutionists themselves can be accepted at face value, the study of dinosaurs was the deciding factor in their conclusion to give up their belief in God and to accept in its place organic evolution. Evolutionists like Stephen Jay Gould, Robert Bakker, and others are on record as stating that it was the study of dinosaurs, at a young age, that set them on their lifelong path as evolutionists. Dr. Bakker even commented on this fact in the Preface to his immensely popular book on dinosaurs (1986, p. 9). Edward O. Wilson, the father of the discipline known as sociobiology, once commented that when he was fifteen years old, he had “great fervor and interest in the fundamentalist religion; I left at seventeen when I got to the University of Alabama and heard about evolutionary theory” (1982, p. 40). Henry Morris, former professor and department head at Virginia Polytechnic Institute, observed that he “spent over twenty-eight years teaching in secular universities and saw this sad tale repeated in many lives” (1984, p. 113). Because they are fascinating to children, because they are such an effective teaching aid, and because they are generally used to teach evolution, dinosaurs can represent a formidable tool to be used in robbing students of all ages of their faith in God and His Word. This makes the controversy over dinosaurs important.

The Bible and Dinosaurs

The question is often asked, “If dinosaurs are so important, why doesn’t the Bible mention them?” There are several ways to respond to such an inquiry. First, the word “dinosaur” wasn’t invented until 1842, while the Bible was translated into English much earlier. One hardly would expect to find a word in a book which preceded the word’s invention by several centuries! Second, it should be noted that numerous organisms are not mentioned by name in the Bible, yet such an omission does not cast doubt on their creation or existence. The Bible does not mention cats, kangaroos, or bacteria. Yet, just like the things that are mentioned by name, it is obvious that these things were created by God. While the Bible speaks accurately on all topics with which it deals, it was not intended to be a taxonomy textbook. The purpose of the book of Genesis, for example, was not to catalog every organism that ever lived, but to present a broad yet accurate summary of historical events which actually occurred during the creation week. Third, while the word “dinosaur(s)” is not mentioned in the Bible, there is compelling evidence that dinosaurs, and dinosaur-like creatures, are described, directly or indirectly, in God’s Word. Among the passages which may be considered are Job 40:15-24 and Job 41:1-34.

The passage containing the most serious implications in this matter, however, is Exodus 20:11. By announcing: “For in six days Jehovah made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is...,” the Bible makes it clear that the entirety of God’s earthly creation was brought into existence during those six days. The apostle John added that “all things were made by Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made” (John 1:3). If God created the Earth, the heavens, the seas, and everything in them in six days, what does that omit? It omits absolutely nothing! Add to that the statements found in Genesis 1:31 and 2:1, and the case is strengthened considerably. In Genesis 1:31, as He surveyed everything He had made, God proclaimed it “very good”—the Hebrew phrase representing completion and perfection. In Genesis 2:1, He then stated that the creation was “finished,” indicating an action once and for all completed, not continuing into the future.

The information thus presented may be summarized as follows: (a) God created everything in six days; (b) that creation was complete and perfect; and (c) the creation was finished. The implications of this teaching are clear. According to the Genesis record, no animals were created before day five, at which time God created sea-dwelling creatures and birds (Genesis 1:20-23). On day six (Genesis 1:24-25), God created the “creeping things” and “beasts of the earth”—descriptions that certainly would include dinosaurs. Since man likewise was created on day six (Genesis 1:26-27), the inescapable conclusion is that men and dinosaurs lived on the Earth as contemporaries.

Through the years, attempts have been made to introduce into the biblical record the idea of an ancient Earth so that evolutionary concepts (such as the separation of men and dinosaurs by millions of years) could be made acceptable to Bible believers. These attempts (generally known as the Day-Age Theory and the Gap Theory) have failed, because the premises upon which they were developed were false. We have examined and refuted each of these elsewhere (Thompson, 1982a; 1982b). While the conclusion that men and dinosaurs coinhabited the Earth is at odds with current evolutionary thought, it is the only conclusion that respects the Bible’s inspiration. It therefore is the position that we defend, and that we advocate be taught to our children.

WHERE DID THE DINOSAURS GO?

Many theories have been suggested to explain the extinction of the dinosaurs, but none fits all the available facts or is provable. Reginald Daly documented over twenty explanations for the dinosaurs’ disappearance (1972, pp. 29ff.), and since the publication of his work, additional theories have been advanced as well. The idea most often suggested to explain the disappearance of the dinosaurs centers around a sudden climatic change over the Earth—a change so drastic that the dinosaurs could no longer survive. Nobel laureate Luis Alvarez and his son Walter have suggested, for example, that the dinosaurs perished in a short time span some 65 million years ago when an asteroid-like object impacted with the Earth, throwing up dust and soot which blocked the Sun’s rays, causing plants to die, which in turn caused herbivores to die, which in turn caused carnivores to die (see: Hoffman, 1982, pp. 58-63; Discover, 1984, pp. 21ff.; Alvarez and Asaro, 1990, pp. 78-84). While this particular theory has many supporters, and has been popular for several years, it also has a number of credible detractors as well (see Courtillot, 1990, pp. 85-92).

Creationists generally believe that the dinosaurs’ extinction may be tied, at least in part, to the global Flood of Genesis 6-8 (see for example Gish, 1977, pp. 55-60; 1990, pp. 73-75). There is compelling evidence to indicate that the pre-Flood world was much different than the post-Flood world (Gish, 1990, pp. 74-75). The devastating effects of local floods are well known. What kind of damage, then, could be expected from a Flood that covered “every high mountain on the whole earth” (Genesis 7:19)? Many creation scientists believe that the dinosaurs survived for a time after the Flood, but because of the hostile conditions, eventually became extinct.

Some question whether or not Noah’s ark was large enough to hold all the animals, including the dinosaurs, that it had to carry. There are a number of parameters to be considered in responding to this question. First, since God Himself designed and created the animal kingdom, it is safe to conclude that He was similarly able to design a boat large enough to carry a portion of those animals to safety. To state otherwise is to impugn the nature and integrity of God. Second, the ark was approximately 450 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet high, with slightly more than 100,000 square feet of cargo space. Noah was instructed to take into the boat land-dwelling, air-breathing animals. Today the number of species of animals that fit that description is about 20,000. Assuming that another 20,000 species have become extinct since that time, Noah would have to fit approximately 80,000 animals into the ark. The average size of those animals has been calculated to be that of a sheep (see Gish, 1990, p. 75). Thus, about 50,000 square feet of space on the boat would be filled, leaving another 50,000 available for foodstuffs, living quarters, etc. [NOTE: Noah was not commanded to take two, or seven, of every species into the ark, but every kind, which would shrink considerably the numbers of animals onboard the ark. A biblical “kind” is not necessarily the same as the biologists’ “species,” but can (and generally does) have a much broader classification.]

Third, it may be that God allowed Noah some latitude in regard to the animals that were taken onboard. For example, perhaps it was not necessary for Noah to take adult animals; rather, immature animals may have been stowed. This would save space, and prevent potential reproductive problems. Fourth, it is possible that God may have placed some, or all, of the animals into hibernation, thus making them easier to care for. The point is that the Flood was initated and controlled by God from beginning to end. It involved both God’s providential and miraculous intervention. Neither should be diminished in importance in the historical account of Genesis 6-8.

CONCLUSION

The Mosaic record of the creation is inexhaustively sublime. In it, we learn of the creation of the heavens and the Earth by an Almighty God. By divine fiat, light was formed and atmosphere was wrapped around this planet. Great seas were gathered together, and separated from dry land. The world of botany miraculously bloomed, and lights burst forth in the heavens. The waters swarmed with living creatures, and birds soared through the pristine air. Varieties of domestic animals and beasts were created and finally, man, the zenith of God’s creation, stood proudly upon the Earth’s bosom.

The dinosaur—one of the most majestic of God’s creatures—stood with him. No doubt they pondered each other’s existence.

Today, we still stand in awe of them. And what a grand teaching tool they make for our children, who need to know that the same God Who created these awesome giants also created them. Let us not fail to teach our children these important lessons. If we do not teach them the truthfulness of the Genesis record, someone else may undermine their faith by teaching them the error of evolution—using the dinosaurs to accomplish this task.

REFERENCES

Alvarez, Walter and Frank Asaro (1990), “An Extraterrestrial Impact,” Scientific American, 263[4]:78-84.

Bakker, Robert T. (1986), The Dinosaur Heresies (New York: William Morrow).

Courtillot, Vincent E. (1990), “A Volcanic Eruption,” Scientific American, 263[4]:85-92, October.

Daly, Reginald (1972), Earth’s Most Challenging Mysteries (Nutley, N.J.: Craig Press).

Discover (1984), “The Great Dyings,” 5[5]:21-24,26-32, May.

Gish, Duane T. (1977), Dinosaurs: Those Terrible Lizards (San Diego, CA: Creation-Life Publishers).

Gish, Duane T. (1990), The Amazing Story of Creation from Science and the Bible (El Cajon, CA: Institute for Creation Research).

Hoffman, Paul (1982), “Asteroid on Trial,” Science Digest, 90[6]:58-63, June.

Lemonick, Michael D. (1993), “Rewriting the Book on Dinosaurs,” Time, 141[17]:42-49.

Morris, Henry M. (1984), The Biblical Basis for Modern Science (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).

Thompson, Bert (1982a), “The Day-Age Theory: Another False Compromise of the Genesis Account of Creation,” Reason & Revelation, 2:29-32, July.

Thompson, Bert (1982b), “The Gap Theory: Still Another False Theory of the Genesis Account of Creation,” Reason & Revelation, 2:45-48, November.

Wilson, Edward O. (1982), “Toward a Humanistic Biology,” The Humanist, September/October.


Originally published in Reason & Revelation, August 1993, 13[8]:57-61.



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