Dinosaurs and More
Dinosaurs are fascinating. Movies about dinosaurs, such as Jurassic Park and Disney’s Dinosaurs, have gripped millions of people. Dinosaur exhibits are the most popular displays at many museums. In the Chicago area, Sue the T. Rex has drawn huge crowds at the Field Museum.
Who was the first person to discover dinosaurs? Well, in 1677 Dr. Robert Plot found some enormous bones but didn’t know what sort of creature they came from. In 1822 Mary Ann Mantell and her husband, Dr. Gideon Mantell, found a fossil tooth much like modern reptiles but much bigger. Dr. Mantell concluded that this and other animal remains were from a previously unknown type of reptile, and he popularized the idea of an age of reptiles. The actual word “dinosaur,” meaning “terrible lizard,” was first used in 1841 by Sir Richard Owen.
But none of these people was the first to discover dinosaurs or name them. The first person to discover dinosaurs was the very first person who ever lived: Adam. Adam didn’t just discover and classify bones; he observed and named real, live dinosaurs.
According to Genesis, God created land animals and humans on the sixth day of creation, so the first dinosaurs and the first people came into existence within hours of each other. Adam got his first look at dinosaurs that very day. Genesis 2:19 says, “Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field.” We don’t know the language Adam spoke, and we don’t know what he chose to call dinosaurs and other animals, but it’s clear that Adam saw them, classified them, and gave them proper names.
That’s not what most museums and movies say, of course. They say dinosaurs evolved about 235 million years ago and died out about 65 million years ago, long before humans existed. Dinosaurs have been used, perhaps more than anything else, to get children and adults to think in terms of evolution over many millions of years. Some people treat the alleged dates for dinosaurs as facts that are more sure and important than the documented dates of major historical events. They might not know the American Civil War ended in 1865, but they’re sure dinosaurs died out 65 million years ago. Somehow speculation based on bones ranks above written records of important history.
Genesis is a written record of history. There God tells us about Adam and the animals. Contrary to the idea that dinosaurs disappeared long before people appeared, Genesis says that land animals (including dinosaurs) were created the same day as Adam and were named by him. At first all animals (including dinosaurs) lived on vegetation (Genesis 1:30). There were no meat eaters, no animal bloodshed, no death, until Adam disobeyed God and brought himself and all creatures under the curse of death. All animal fossils come from creatures that died after Adam sinned, because there was no death and thus no fossils before Adam sinned.
The fact that dinosaurs are often featured in evolutionary propaganda has led some Bible-believing people to deny that dinosaurs ever existed. The fossil bones, they say, are part of Satan’s plot to deceive us, or else part of God’s plan to test our faith. But there’s no need to deny the reality of dinosaurs. These fascinating creatures were part of God’s good creation. The bones aren’t fabrications; they are from real dinosaurs.
Dinosaur bones are not at odds with the Bible. Granted, those bones are given dates millions of years before man, but are those dates really so certain? The bones themselves have no date of death stamped on them. One evolutionist said, “Everybody knows fossils are fickle; bones will sing any song you want to hear.”
Here are some facts that don’t appear in most museums and movies about dinosaurs. Most dinosaur fossils still contain the original bone, and in some cases, the bone doesn’t look all that old. An expert speaks of dinosaur bones which “for all intents and purposes cannot be distinguished from modern bone.” Some dinosaur bones found in Alaska “look and feel like old cow bones,” he says, “and the discoverers of the site did not report it for twenty years because they assumed they were bison, not dinosaur, bones.” Some bones from a T. rex reportedly may even have remnants of red blood cells and hemoglobin.
Not all dinosaur bones appear so fresh, though. Many have become like stone. Wouldn’t it take an enormous amount of time for that to occur? Not necessarily. The bone material itself doesn’t turn to stone. It is permineralized, which means that rock minerals have been deposited into all the spaces within the original bone. “The amount of time that it takes for a bone to become completely permineralized is highly variable,” says the fossil expert, who is also an evolutionist. “The process can happen rapidly. Modern bones that fall into mineral springs can become permineralized within a matter of weeks.”
Why do many people find it hard to imagine that humans and dinosaurs lived at the same time? In most cases, it’s not because of personal research or knowledge of all the relevant data, but because we’ve been conditioned by hearing a 65-million-year gap repeated over and over. The alleged gap between dinosaurs and humans is based on the assumption that different levels of rock with different fossils were formed in vastly different eras of earth’s history. These rock strata are assigned dates millions of years apart from each other, based mainly on radiometric dating.
The most famous radiometric method is carbon dating. Many people have a vague idea that carbon dating proves millions or billions of years. But carbon dating deals only with organic material, and the half-life of carbon-14 is such that it can only deal with thousands of years, not millions or billions.
Other radiometric methods measure other isotopes besides carbon-14 and are interpreted to give dates in the millions or billions, but how reliable are these tests? Rocks from recent lava flows in New Zealand were tested in a lab. Though only a few years old, they were given dates up to 3.5 million years. Oops! Radiometric dates depend on a number of assumptions that are far from certain. Here’s what one candid evolutionist had to say:
The age of our globe is presently thought to be some 4.5 billion years, based on radio-decay rates of uranium and thorium. Such ‘confirmation’ may be shortlived… There has been in recent years the horrible realization that radio-decay rates are not as constant as previously thought, nor are they immune to environmental influences. And this could mean that the atomic clocks are reset during some global disaster, and events which brought the Mesozoic to a close may not be 65 million years ago, but rather, within the age and memory of man.
These are the words of an evolutionist, not a creationist, but don’t miss what he is saying: the Mesozoic era, when dinosaurs roamed the earth, could turn out to have been part of the same era as humans, if a worldwide disaster radically altered things.
Has there been any such global disaster? Yes indeed—more than one, in fact. After Adam and Eve sinned, a worldwide curse altered plants to produce thorns and thistles. Some animals and humans became carnivorous and all became subject to aging and death. In the time of Noah came a worldwide flood, a catastrophe so stupendous that it may have produced fossil deposits in ways that we may never be able to explain fully in terms of presently observable processes. Both catastrophes, the curse and the flood, involved not only physical forces but divine judgment, so there’s no telling what the effect was on things like radioactive decay and other things presently used to date dinosaur fossils.
Encounters With Dinosaurs?
It’s not so farfetched, then, to believe that people existed at the same time as dinosaurs or to conclude that when Adam named the animals, dinosaurs were among them. Does the Bible mention dinosaurs or describe what it was like to encounter one? Well, it’s not the Bible’s main purpose to satisfy our curiosity about dinosaurs. Also, Scripture was written long before the word dinosaur was coined, so you won’t find the word in the Bible. But the Bible does describe some enormous, awesome creatures that sound rather dinosaur-like and unlike any creature now living.
One such creature is called behemoth. In the Bible book of Job, one of the world’s most ancient writings, God said, “Look at the behemoth, which I made along with you and which feeds on grass like an ox. What strength he has in his loins, what power in the muscles of his belly. His tail sways like a cedar … His bones are tubes of bronze, his limbs like rods of iron. He ranks first among the works of God” (Job 40:15-19). What sort of beast was first in size among God’s land animals? What had massive bones and a tail like a tree? It doesn’t sound like any creature now living. We can’t be sure what behemoth was, but it sounds like it could have been a huge, plant-eating dinosaur.
God also spoke of a gigantic marine creature called leviathan: “Who dares open the doors of his mouth, ringed about with his fearsome teeth? His back has rows of shields tightly sealed together… His chest is as hard as rock, hard as a lower millstone. When he rises up, the mighty are terrified… Nothing on earth is his equal” (Job 41:14-33). Five passages in the Bible mention leviathan. We can’t be sure what leviathan was, but some think it sounds like the now-extinct Kronosaurus.
In addition to behemoth and leviathan, the Old Testament also uses a Hebrew word translated “monster” or “dragon” about thirty times. Sometimes it’s used as a vivid picture of God’s enemies, but the dragon idea itself may be based on memories of giant animals. Besides God’s revelation in the Bible, many cultures have stories about human encounters with monsters and dragons. No doubt many of these are tall tales, but should we assume there’s no truth at all behind any of them? What if some dragon stories originated in real human encounters with dinosaurs? That wouldn’t be possible if dinosaurs died out 65 million years ago, of course. But it would be possible if all animals were created the same day as people. And that’s just what Genesis says (Ham, The Answers Book).
Naming the Animals
God is the Almighty Creator who made fish and birds, dinosaurs and mammals and every other kind of creature, including man. One of the striking scenes in Genesis is when God brought many of the newly created animals and birds to the man for Adam to name. What an impressive parade that must have been, with such a variety of astonishing creatures! And what a man Adam must have been, to instantly know each one and name it properly!
One objection to this scene is that if it all took place on day six of creation, Adam could not possibly have named so many creatures in less than a day. But don’t underestimate Adam’s intellect. Don’t forget that God personally created man in his own image. God furnished Adam with a fully formed body and brain, with fully developed language and mind. We have no idea how smart Adam was, but if God programmed Adam’s brain with an entire vocabulary, a mind already furnished with considerable knowledge, a photographic memory that never forgot anything, and lightning-quick powers of perception and reasoning, there’s no telling what such a man could accomplish. Freshly created by God, without sin’s curse to slow or confuse his mind, Adam may have been capable of things we can hardly imagine.
So don’t underestimate Adam’s intellect, and at the same time, don’t overestimate how many creatures he had to name. Adam didn’t name every creature that day. The Bible says he named “the birds of the air” and “the beasts of the field.” In Scripture, “beasts of the field” is distinct from the phrase “beasts of the earth” and may refer to animals that lived closest to the man. It might not include those that God put in more remote parts. The phrase “beasts of the field” does not include insects or things that crawl or slither, and it doesn’t include anything in lakes or oceans. Those things are God’s creatures, too, but they were not in the parade Adam named that day.
How many creatures did Adam name during that sixth day of creation? We don’t know. Dr. Henry Morris points out that if Adam noted and named ten kinds per minute, he could have covered three thousand kinds in five hours, more than enough to cover all major types of birds and animals that might be candidates as companions for humans. We don’t know the number, but we do know that Adam named all the creatures God brought to him.
Besides animal kinds that live on today, Adam probably named kinds that are now extinct, including dinosaurs. Even so, there may have been fewer kinds to name than one might think. Varieties of animals that we today classify as different species may trace back to the same created kind. For example, there are many breeds of dogs, from tiny Chihuahuas to enormous Great Danes, and they seem utterly different, but they are all related and go back to the same dog ancestors not so many centuries ago. Likewise, foxes, coyotes, wolves, jackals, and dingos may all be varieties of the original dog “kind.” Adam only had to name the original kind, not all variations that later came from it.
Thinking about original kinds can get mighty interesting. Ever hear of a zorse, a zonkey, a beefalo, a cama, or a liger? A zorse is born from the mating of a zebra and a horse, while a zonkey is a cross between a zebra and a donkey. A beefalo is a cross between North American buffalo and domestic cattle, and is also called a cattalo. Veterinarians mated a camel and a lama to produce a cama, and they gave their cama the name Rama. Rama the cama … and if you want more strange animals, how about ligers? Lions and tigers don’t interbreed in the wild. They live in different regions and tend to be enemies. But a lion and tiger living in captivity became friends and mated to produce two ligers, cats with astonishing size and speed.
What do these oddball animals have to do with Genesis? Well, the Bible says God created each animal according to its kind, and Adam named various kinds. The fact that some animals classified as separate species are still able to interbreed may mean that they trace back to the same created kind. Zebras, donkeys, and horses may come from the same created kind. Camels and lamas may come from the same created kind. Tigers, lions, and others in the cat family may come from the same created kind. Research scientist Don Batten discusses these things in Creation magazine. Dr. Batten says, “Creationists are often misrepresented as believing that God created all the species we have today, just like they are today, in the beginning. This is called ‘fixity of species.’ The Bible does not teach this.”
It appears that God endowed each created kind with genetic information capable of producing a variety of descendants. This variety in offspring occurred through different combinations of the genetic information God originally gave that created kind or through concentration of some information and loss of other information. It did not occur through evolution of new information. Amid the variety of descendants, the basic kinds did not change. No new organ or limb evolved. No radically different life form evolved. Creationists don’t dispute Darwin’s claim that many species of finch came from the same finch ancestor. But finches remain finches, whatever their variations. Creationists accept microevolution, variation within a kind, but deny macroevolution, the notion that one kind can evolve into an entirely different kind, such as birds evolving from dinosaurs, or mammals evolving from amphibians, or, in the overall scheme, humans evolving from amoebas. Such ideas are at odds with Genesis and without basis in scientific observation. But broad variation within kinds is an observable fact that is consistent with Genesis. In the beginning God created the different kinds, each with a genetic range to produce a considerable variety of offspring. It was these original kinds that God brought to Adam to be named.
Parade with Purpose
God’s purpose in presenting Adam with a parade of animals was twofold. First, Adam was to start his God-given role as ruler of God’s creatures. Giving a name is an act of authority. Newborn children get their names from the parents who have rightful authority over them. Soldiers are named sergeant or captain or colonel only by someone in authority over them. So too, the animals received their names from Adam because he had God-given authority over them.
But naming the animals wasn’t just an exercise of authority. A second purpose was to identify a suitable helper and companion for Adam. That’s why it wasn’t necessary that day for Adam to look at sea creatures or worms or things of that nature. They were obviously designed to live in places where they could never be Adam’s constant companion and helper. Birds and land animals, however, could share the same territory as Adam and were therefore presented as candidates for companionship. “But,” says Genesis, for Adam no suitable helper was found” (2:20).
Each creature Adam named was marvelous in its own way, but none was Adam’s type. Adam was no evolutionist. He knew that he and all the animals had been created by God on that very day. He knew he had been created separately from the animals, and he knew that, despite some similarities, there was something about him totally different from any bird or animal. As they paraded before him, Adam saw some physical structures—eyes, mouth, limbs—that were somewhat similar to human anatomy. He saw some primates that looked more like him than other animals did. But as Adam saw and named each animal, he immediately knew that it was utterly different from himself. He might enjoy having some of them around as pets, but not one shared Adam’s nature as the image of God. Not one could be Adam’s helper and partner to rule the earth and the animal kingdom. Not one could be his loving companion or produce offspring with him. Something was missing from the parade. Adam needed another being made in God’s image, but he found none among the animals.
What Adam needed was a woman. And that’s exactly what God made for him. The Lord put Adam into a deep sleep, took a rib from Adam’s side, and made a woman. Together Adam and Eve could rule creation, reproduce and fill the earth, and rejoice in each other and in their Creator.
God’s twofold purpose in parading the animals before Adam has much to teach us. Adam’s authority in classifying and naming the animals sets the precedent for scientific study in order to rule creation and rule it well. Like Adam, we need a keen sense of our own position over all other creatures, and we need a keen sense of our position under the authority of our Creator. We should never try to figure out animals or understand ourselves apart from our relationship to the God who made us or in contradiction to what the Creator says in the Bible. Even today, as we look at various animals, we can marvel at what God has made. At the same time, as we think about dinosaurs and other animals that have died out, and about splendid species that in our own lifetime are endangered or have become extinct, we should grieve the havoc and loss caused by sin and death. We should pray that God will forgive us and make us better stewards and rulers of his creatures, and that he will hasten the day when Jesus Christ returns to renew all things.
Adam’s need for a suitable helper is also a valuable lesson. How each of us ought to thank God for human companionship! Every man should thank God for his wife, and every one of us should delight in the family and friends God gives us. It’s fun to see animals in a zoo or in the wild, and it’s nice to have a good pet, but no animal can match the wonder of having fellow humans with whom to share our lives. Again, our gratitude for each other is tinged with sorrow as we think on how far we have fallen since God created our first parents, and how much we continue to hurt each other. We must pray for forgiveness through the blood of Jesus and ask for the Holy Spirit’s help to do better. And we must rejoice that our Creator still cares for us.
PRAYER—”You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things” (Revelation 4:11). Forgive our sins for Jesus’ sake. Shape our thinking by your Word, and by your Spirit help us to rule your creatures wisely and to love each other faithfully, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
For further study:
Duane Gish, Dinosaurs by Design
Ken Ham, The Great Dinosaur Mystery Solved!
Paul S. Taylor, The Great Dinosaur Mystery and the Bible (kids)
By David Feddes. Originally broadcasted on the Back to God Hour and published in The Radio Pulpit.