Few subjects are more thoroughly captivating to the minds of young people than dinosaurs. In an exhibit called “Dino-Mania,” life-size, animated, robotic dinosaurs shriek and growl at visitors, but most of them – including the children – are fascinated and relish the experience.
What is it about these extinct, giant lizards that captures our attention to such a degree?
The thought of giant lizards roaming the earth in vast numbers is an awesome concept. Most people have been familiarized with these creatures since childhood. Huge giants of up to 90 feet long really did exist at one time – the large number of fossil remains attest to this fact. With hundreds of species of giant reptile remains for paleontologists to examine, there are just a few dinosaurs that have been popularized in the imagination of the average person:
- Apatosaurus = Commonly referred to as a brontosaurus, until scientists discovered that the animal was not well known enough to have been reconstructed. The first “brontosaurus” was actually the body of a apatosaurus with the head of a diplodocus. Both of these animals are similar in shape. This animal reached a length of up to 90 feet and had a long neck designed to reach up high into the treetops so that it could take in lots of twigs and leaves, which would then be swallowed and stored in the massive stomach where all the goodness could be released.
- Stegosaurus = Reaching lengths of 25 feet long, this was a moderate sized animal by dinosaur standards. With a very small head, some scientists believe that the stegosaurus had another brain located in the tail, which was equipped with long pairs of 3 foot spikes, its only defense against predators. The large plates of bone running down the spine were not part of a defense system, but had more to do with regulating the body temperature. By positioning itself at the right angle, the blood filled surfaces of the plates could either be warmed by the sun or cooled in a breeze.
- Triceratops = There are many species of ceratopids, dinosaurs with large plated heads with sharp pointed horns. The most well known, the triceratops (a name meaning three-spiked head), was the first complete skull found of these animals. Reaching a length of 29 feet, the triceratops was the largest of the ceratopids. These heavy four footed animals were designed to be a match for meat eating predators such as the tyrannosaurus. This was a powerful creature that thrived in great numbers before its extinction.
- Tyrannosaurus Rex = This monster is thought to be the most terrifying creature that ever lived. It is also the best known dinosaur because it was the biggest – reaching 46 feet in length and weighing 7 tons – walking about on two powerful hind feet, it was as tall as a house (reaching heights of up to 18 feet). This meat eating dinosaur had a large head with a powerful jaw used to kill and eat smaller dinosaurs. Its teeth were like daggers of up to six inches in length. Strangely, its forelimbs were small and seemingly useless. However, it had large powerful hind legs with claws of up to 8 inches in length. This once-great titan makes present day animals seem like dwarfs in comparison.
- Flying Reptiles = Although not true dinosaurs, these reptiles resembled giant flying lizards filling the skies of a forgotten time. The most well known of these, the pteranodon and the pterosaur, had immense wingspans Scientists are unable to explain how featherless, flying reptiles of this size were able to remain aloft, let alone take off and land. Some have even suggested that these reptiles must have remained aloft for their entire life. To many, the existence of flying reptiles remains a mystery.
The average person will readily recognize the dinosaurs described above. Dinosaurs are the subjects of movies, childrens toys and even pop up as plastic figurines in cereal boxes. It seems like dinosaurs are a familiar part of our culture. Yet none of us has ever seen a dinosaur. Perhaps this is the reason why large numbers of people flock to see exhibits such as Dino-Mania.
Age of Dinosaurs
Visitors to dinosaur exhibits like the one at Florida’s Museum of Natural History are usually greeted with this introduction: “The dinosaurs reigned on the earth for 140 million years, mysteriously vanishing over 100 million years ago.” Every idea imaginable has been suggested to explain their disappearance, such as destruction by volcanoes, changes in environments, eating of dinosaur eggs by mammals, a dinosaur disease epidemic, etc.
Although some scientists have proposed ideas as to why dinosaurs became extinct, none of these theories seem to explain why such a prolific and successful group of living beings could have so suddenly and completely disappeared. As one paleontologist put it: “The dinosaur story is like a mystery thriller with the last pages torn out. A most important part is missing. That is true and the paleontologist knows it. He also knows the riddle will probably never be solved.“1
The popular view that millions and millions of years passed between the emergence of these lizards and their eventual demise poses another question: “How could a group of animals with such a successful track record have so suddenly disappeared?”
A time line has been devised that puts the occurrence of dinosaurs in perspective. The following time line of geologic ages appears on the wall of most museums displaying dinosaur exhibits:
A Competing View
Some scientists disagree with this scheme of events, however, and opt for a belief in universal catastrophism. Most of these scientists have a basis of belief in the biblical account of creation and the Genesis Flood, which gives the record of a sudden and cataclysmic event in the earth’s history over 5000 years ago. This was the accepted view in the field of geology for hundreds of years.
Catastrophism refers to the theory that the geological features of the earth were created suddenly by natural disasters, such as flooding, earthquakes, volcanoes, storms, etc. Uniformitarianism refers to the theory that most of the geological features of the earth were created slowly through uniform processes, such as erosion, sedimentation, continental drift, etc.
Catastrophism gave away to uniformitarianism only after the proposals of Charles Lyell were published in 1830. Lyell set up a geological time scale similar to the one above and supplied each epoch with millions of years in order to advance the theory of uniformitarianism. As anti-biblical humanism became entrenched in academic circles in the mid-1800s, Lyell’s theories prospered.
When Lyell read Charles Darwin’s manuscript, Origin of the Species, he wrote the young naturalist urging him to publish it, since Darwin’s proposed biological uniformitarianism closely paralleled his own ideas. Lyell promoted the publication of Darwin’s work and later helped to popularize it among his influential friends.
The fossil evidence buried in the earth’s strata does little to confirm the idea that dinosaur fossils were formed due to uniform processes. Most paleontologists today would agree that in order to form a fossil, the remains of an animal must be buried quickly without time for the carcass to decay. Likewise, in many fossil beds, remains of numerous carcasses have been found disjointed and jumbled in an unsorted fashion. The existence of these fossils indicate that the carcasses were impounded by a great watery upheaval of catastrophic impact.
One feature of the deposits of the earth’s strata, which is difficult to explain according to the theory of uniformitarianism, is the existence of “fossil graveyards.” In many places all over the world, thousands of fossilized remains of all types of animals are found jumbled together in the same strata. Attempts to account for these vast graveyards in terms of present day processes are absurd.
A more likely explanation is that large numbers of animals were deposited by the tidal actions of a single large scale flood and then covered over suddenly with tons of sediment. The biblical view of a world wide catastrophic deluge does much to vindicate the possibility of this occurrence.
In addition to explaining the great availability of fossil remains in the earth’s strata, universal catastrophism solves some of the mysteries that surround the existence and sudden disappearance of dinosaurs. This mysterious disappearance may be explained by the record of events given to us in Genesis chapter 7 which describes a universal flood catastrophe which occurred roughly 5000 years ago.
According to this account, the entire land mass of the earth was suddenly and completely engulfed by a massive deluge which came from both a vast supply of water below the earth’s surface and a water vapor canopy separated by a “firmament” above the earth’s atmosphere.2
Men and Dinosaurs
If the biblical view of dinosaurs is correct, then we could assume that the human population and dinosaurs lived simultaneously in the pre-flood world described in Genesis chapters 1-7. Although the evidence is often ignored by paleontologists and archaeologists, there are records of dinosaurs having lived at the same time as human beings.
First, dinosaurs are mentioned in the Bible. In Genesis chapter one, we are told “and God created the great sea monsters.“3 The word for “sea monster” or “great whales” in Hebrew is tannin which is most frequently translated “dragons.” Evidently this term includes all large monsters, even those now extinct.
The frequent references to dragons in the Bible, as well as in the legends of most cultures of the world, certainly should not be shrugged off as mere fairy tales. It is possible that these stories are handed down as the tribal memories of men who encountered dinosaurs before they became extinct.4
Another evidence for the coexistence of men and dinosaurs are ancient Mayan relief sculptures discovered in Mexico which resemble birds with reptilian features. According to the archaeologist who discovered the sculptures, there is evidence that the serpent-birds were not intended to depict mythological animals, but were realistic representations of an animal coterminous with ancient Mayan culture.
If such flying reptiles were contemporary with Mayan culture, it would refute the belief that these creature became extinct during the Mesozoic “age of dinosaurs.“5
A recent find which gives further credence to a more recent “age of dinosaurs” is a monster found in the nets of Japanese fishermen. In the spring of 1977, off the coast of New Zealand, a gigantic creature 30 feet long, with a husky neck about five feet long and weighing 4,000 pounds was hauled up in their nets. The fishermen photographed the creature which resembles an aquatic dinosaur known as the pleisosaur, a type of an aquatic dinosaur.6
Paluxy River Valley
One of the most spectacular examples of men and dinosaurs living at the same time are the fossil footprints in the Paluxy River bed in Glen Rose, Texas. Here, in limestone beds are found large numbers of both human and dinosaur footprints. In two locations the tracks cross each other, and in two cases human and dinosaur tracks actually overlap each other.
These tracks occur in supposedly cretaceous sediment and have been repeatedly documented by creationists, yet ignored by uniformitarian paleontologists. The Institute for Creation Research urges skeptics to see a film entitled Footprints in Stone before dismissing this evidence as biased.7
A Vapor Canopy in the Sky
If we think that the Genesis account of the pre-flood world is correct, then we should be able determine that this was the type of world that could support dinosaurs. Genesis 1:7 describes the creation of a water vapor canopy that once enveloped the earth. This, in addition to the large subterranean deposits of water, would account for the large amount of water unleashed upon the earth during the Genesis Flood.
Under this protective canopy, greater air pressure in the atmosphere supplied more oxygen to plants and animals and allowed them to grow larger. The lush vegetation of this era could have also fed large dinosaurs such as the brontosaurus.
One of the questions that we have briefly touched upon – “How did giant reptiles fly?” – is best answered by accepting the existence of this pre-flood world. Nothing of such weight and size could possibly fly in the post-flood world of today. However, if the atmospheric pressure on earth prior to the flood were twice as much as it is today, these animals would have had no problem flying.
Creation scientists theorize that this vapor canopy also acted as a protective shield for the earth blocking out large amounts of radiation from the sun. This would dramatically affect radiometric dating devices, such as Carbon-14, Uranium-238, and Potassium-Argon methods.
Scientists who accept a catastrophist model maintain that rocks, sediments and fossils formed before the Genesis Flood, would have a significantly lower amount of radioactive material and a higher rate of radioactive decay since the sun’s radiation was hindered by the higher moisture environment of the earth’s protective shield. The resulting dates of these rocks would be recorded as much higher than their actual age if the event of a universal deluge is not taken into account.
The dates of 300 million to 100 million years of triassic, jurassic and cretaceous sediments are erroneously supported by assumptions made in the dating process. The mistake is to assume that the amount of cosmic radiation entering the earth’s atmosphere has been constant since the age of dinosaurs.
Those fascinated with dinosaurs should take joy in the discovery that according to the Bible, dinosaurs were originally a part of God’s creation. The fact that men and dinosaurs once lived in the same world may explain the fact that we are enamored with these great beasts. Perhaps it is a part of an innate desire in us to return to a forgotten world – a world that God created and called “good.“8
1 J.M. Good, T.E. White, and G.F. Stucker: “The Dinosaur Quarry,” U.S. Government Printing Office, 1958, p. 26
2 Genesis 1:6,7; 7:11. 3 Genesis 1:21 The Amplified Bible
4 Henry M. Morris, The Genesis Record (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1976) p. 69
5 “Serpent-bird of the Mayans,” Science Digest, Vol. 64 (November 1968), p.1.
6 Ralph Swanson, “A Recently Living Pleisosaur Found?” Creation Research Society Quarterly, v. 15:1, June 1978, p. 8.
7 Footprints in Stone, available on a rental basis from Films-for Christ Association, R.R.2, Eden Road, Elmwood, Illinois, 61529.
8 See Genesis 1:4,9,18,21,25,31.
In addition to the above sources the editors of The Forerunner recommend the following books on biblical creationism.
Scientific Creationism by Henry Morris, Ph.D.
The Waters Above by Joseph Dillow
The Genesis Flood by Henry Morris, Ph.D.
The History of Evolutionary Thought by Bert Thompson, Ph.D.
Evolution: The Fossils Say No! by Duane Gish, Ph.D.
The Biblical Basis for Modern Science by Henry Morris, Ph.D.
Origins and Destiny by Dr. Robert Gange
The Biblical Flood and the Ice Epoch by Donald Wesley Patten