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Monday, August 20, 2007

Are dinosaurs still alive?

In his book, The Trouble with Physics, Lee Smolin tells how he met some "members of a Bible college" in an airport, and they told him that they had been to Africa, in part to find evidence that dinosaurs still exist. Smolin asked why they were so hard to find, if they exist, especially since they are large, and some of them seem to have lived in herds. The response was that they hide in caves for most of the day, and are supposed to sort of pull dirt across the entrance from the inside to prevent discovery. (New York: Houghton, pp. 25-26) Smolin was illustrating a similar phenomenon in physics, that is, some claims for a particular theory "are just rationalizations." Smolin had a hard time believing this whole idea, especially the idea about the dinosaurs hiding themselves by pulling dirt across cave entrances. Smolin is a physicist, not a geologist, biologist, or paleontologist. According to him, the Bible college persons brought up the subject that led the conversation to dinosaurs.

What about dinosaurs?

I did a Google search for the words, dinosaurs, caves, Africa, and found, sure enough, several web pages that claim that dinosaurs exist there now. Most or all of these pages are by young-earth creationists, who are either attempting to discredit mainstream science by showing that dinosaurs, which supposedly became extinct more than 60 million years ago, are not extinct at all, arguing that Noah's ark carried dinosaurs on it, or both.

Just because young-earth creationists claim something is true doesn't make it false. Are those who make such claims on to something? My response is that I doubt it, but I'm not absolutely sure.

This page has a section on "dinosaurs in the Bible," which refers to Job 40:15-19, which uses the word "behemoth," in some versions. (See here for the King James translation of this passage. The New King James also uses this word, but there's a note, saying that we don't know what animal is meant.) I have done some serious study on the matter of plants in the Bible, and, for most of the names used, we don't seem to really know what plant was meant. I suspect that the same is true for "behemoth."

I was a little surprised that the page didn't refer to "leviathan," apparently another large animal, which is mentioned in four passages in the King James Bible, namely Job 41, Psalm 74:14, Psalm 104:26, and Isaiah 27:1. Leviathan is/was apparently an ocean creature of some kind.

This page cites three articles, from mainstream science journals, indicating that dinosaur soft tissue has been discovered. If so, that is remarkable, if dinosaurs have been extinct for so long. I haven't seen these articles, nor checked to see if they have been supported or discredited by further work.

OK, let's get logical, and examine various possibilities.

Dinosaurs never existed at all.
This is difficult to believe, because of the fossil evidence.

or Dinosaurs existed.

In which case, they became extinct at some time in the past . . .

If that's true, why? There are three possibilities.

1) The earth is very old, and mainstream science, which claims that dinosaurs became extinct a long time ago, is correct.
2) Dinosaurs (and presumably many other forms of prehistoric life) were destroyed before the creation events described in the six days of Genesis 1. This would be consistent with gap theory. It is probably consistent with mainstream science, also.
3) Dinosaurs were rescued from Noah's flood, but have become extinct since, probably because conditions on earth changed*.

or they didn't.

The evidence cited on the web pages proclaiming that they still live is correct, and some dinosaurs still exist. Perhaps the Loch Ness monster exists, and is one.

*Dinosaurs would have taken up a lot of room on the ark, if there were very many species of them, plus the room needed for their food. Genesis 6 says that Noah was to take a male and a female of each animal, and doesn't mention anything about eggs being brought aboard. If somehow the dinosaurs were represented by eggs, rather than young dinosaurs, where did the eggs come from? As the KJV puts it (Genesis 6:20) the animals were to "come unto thee." (to Noah) (I cleaned up some grammar in this paragraph on August 23, 2007. I also mistakenly re-published this as a draft, not a post, after that.)

Thanks for reading.

13 comments:

Rob Rumfelt said...

You always seem to find some of the most interesting topics! And you make an excellent point: Just because something is stated by a YEC doesn't make it automatically false.

My question would be that if dinosaur soft tissue was really discovered, why wasn't it all over the front pages of newspapers the world over? Heck, Jurasic Park could become a reality!

Wouldn't THAT be a rush?

Martin LaBar said...

You'd think so. I suspect that the reports turned out to be false, but I'm not sure.

Thanks for reading.

Anonymous said...

I've often wondered about this subject.

If reptiles grow until they die, what would an 800 year old lizard look like? The Bible speaks of a time when human beings lived that long. Why not reptiles? If dinosaurs were/are really just very old reptiles, then a small male and female (lizard for example) could easily fit on Noah's ark.

Just some random thoughts.

Catez said...

Very interesting Martin.

Just because young-earth creationists claim something is true doesn't make it false.

It doesn't make it true either. It's an hypothesis without evidence. That's something I keep finding with creation science - it is hypothetical but is proposed as if it was evidentially supported fact.

Martin LaBar said...

You are right, Catez, but there is Biblical evidence for the flood, and Noah's ark.

Thanks.

Anonymous, dinosaurs weren't "just very old reptiles." They were different species than the lizards of today. Their eggs, at least for the larger species, were larger. Some of them were about a half yard/meter long. Nonetheless, it wouldn't have been necessary for adult dinosaurs to travel with Noah. Young ones would have sufficed, I suppose. Provided, of course, that there were any dinosaurs alive at the time, which I very much doubt.

Thanks.

elbogz said...

The young earth creationists have done more to split the church than any other cause I’ve seen. I have yet to find anything they say to be true.

Jesus said, don’t concerned about things of this earth, concentrate on your Heavenly father and your place in His Kingdom.

The argument about how old the earth is, and weather T-Rex was on the Noah’s ark have done nothing, but make me doubt my faith. It is far easier to prove Noah and a world wide flood didn’t exist than it is to prove it did. It is far easier to prove the earth is old than it is to prove it is young. But when I win the argument, what do I gain?

In doing so I opened the door to doubt everything I ever came to believe. The greatest lie a young earth creationist ever told, is, “IF you can’t take the bible as the literal word for word history of the earth, then you have to throw it all out”.

Jesus never taught that.

Martin LaBar said...

I am sorry for your crisis of faith, elbogz.

It's clear that some parts of the Bible are not meant to be taken literally, and there will probably always be arguments over what can and what can't. But Jesus took the Bible seriously, as Matthew 4, especially verse 4, shows. (But it's the Bible that tells us that, and if that's not to be taken literally, then maybe that's not true! Ouch) Historically, the church has relied on the Bible as part of God's revelation, and it works for me.

Thanks for reading.

Catez said...

Hi Martin,
yes- sorry, my comment was rather broad. There is some scientific evidence - I was thinking about some of the "scientific" claims made - which dont have evidence, and what I read from YECs is hypothetical in that regard. Basically they are being philosophical or speculative.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, catez. I thought you didn't quite mean what you said!

The major scientific claims of YEC seem all to be false.

Anonymous said...

Matthew 4:8

8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.

The only way to see the whole world from a high mountain is if the Earth is flat.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, anonymous.

What you say is literally true, but it is likely that this passage is meant to be taken at least partly non-literally. I doubt that we are able to understand communication between Satan and Christ very well. It is also true that we might say, when up in a plane, or on top of the Sears Tower, "I can see the whole world from here," knowing full well that the statement isn't literally true.

Muriel Anblaire Del Rosario Abu said...

HI I AM A YOUNG 1ST YEAR STUDENT NATURALLY FROM THE PHILIPPINES...
I AM A VERY SMART STUDENT AND I LOVE READING BOOKS , ESPECIALLY THOSE THAT MAINLY REVOLVES AROUND THE THOUGHT THAT DINOSAURS STILL EXIST, AND FROM MOST OF THEM I READ TALES ABOUT MANY EXPLORERS FINDING OR SEEING A DINOSAUR IN THE INNER PARTS OF AFRICA'S JUNGLE.
IT MUST POSSIBLY BE TRUE IF THEY ARE ACTUALLY STILL ALIVE. I MEAN DINOSAUR ARE BIG ( VERY BIG ) BUT THERE ARE STILL SOME POSSIBILTIES THAT THEY STILL EXIST AND THEY STILL LIVE IN AFRICA. AFRICA IS A PRETTY BIG UNEXPLORED COUNTRY AND MAYBE SOME SCIENTISTS WANTED TO EXPLORE AFRICA AND ACTUALLY ENCOUNTERED A DINOSAUR BUT THEY WERE ACTUALLY KILLED BY THAT DINOSAUR (IF CARNIVOROUS) AND NEVER LIVED TO TELL THE TALE. DO IF DINOSAURS STILL EXIST THEY WOULD PROBABLY STILL LIVE IN AFRICA ( IN AFRICA'S JUNGLES PARTICULARLY ) .

Martin LaBar said...

Well, Muriel, maybe. But I doubt if dinosaurs still exist at all.

Thanks for your comment.