At some time in the past, the earth was inhabited by a bizarre assembly of awesome and immense reptiles. Gigantic dinosaurs roamed the land.“Thunder lizards” weighting 50 tons must have shaken the ground as they walked.
Other creatures such as the tyrannosaurus and the triceratops; giant-winged pterosaurs swooped down from the sky, while the oceans were alive with fearsome marine reptiles called ichthyosaurs and mosasurs. Then, in what is probably the most mysterious and dramatic paleontological event in all the earth history, the dinosaurs suddenly became extinct.
Scientists say the strange and remarkable “age of reptiles” occurred more than 70 million years ago. Yet most fundamentalist churches and creationist groups attempt to support the idea that God created the whole universe, including man and the dinosaurs, about 6,000 years ago.
Thus the dinosaur has come to symbolize one of the most fundamental challenges to the Bible and Christianity: Can the Bible account for the existence of dinosaurs and other extinct creatures in the short period of 6,000 years? And if not, must the Bible be rejected?
The fact is, fundamentalists face a real problem in trying to squeeze dinosaurs into 6,000 years of earth history. The facts just don’t allow it, even when Noah’s flood is involved as an explanation.
Fact # 1: There is a vast difference between the world of man and that of the dinosaurs.
We live in a world dominated by mammals, birds and men. But imagine an environment filled with enormous creatures covered with armor, hellish flying reptiles with 50 foot wingspans, and rapacious 50 foot long sea serpents. Truly, dinosaurs would be out of place in today’s world. The world in which dinosaurs roamed was in most respects utterly unlike our own. Man would feel strange and foreign in that world, as if he had landed on another planet!
Several years ago, James A. Jensen, a paleontologist at Brigham Young University may have discovered the biggest dinosaur of them all in Colorado. The find indicates an 80-ton, 50-foot-tall; 100-foot-long supersized creature once inhabited the area. Certainly, dinosaurs were strikingly different from the animals we find in our modern world. Yet a lot of fundamentalists would tell you that Adam and his descendants literally lived with the dinosaurs.
Fact # 2: The world of the dinosaurs and the modern world of mammals are not intermixed in the fossil record.
Dinosaurs are not found in just any stratum of rocks. They are only found in what has been labeled the Mesozoic. The Mesozoic strata are said to represent the age of reptiles for that reason. But in the geologic column, dinosaurs are never found past the upper-Cretaceous strata – never in the more recent Cenozoic strata, which are associated with men and mammals. Paleontologist Bjorn Kurten notes: “The dinosaurs were with us until the very end of the Cretaceous; in our minds we may picture the great sauropods, the herds of triceratops, and the solitary, hungry tyrannosaurus, and feel the ground tremble under their feet. Then we ascend a few inches in the series of strata, and suddenly they are all gone forever, and it is strangely empty around us.”
Edward Colbert, the famed dinosaur expert, writes: “The great extinction that wiped out all of the dinosaurs forms one of the major lines of demarcation in the record of the rocks, indicating in a rather spectacular and certainly in a very definite manner the end of a long chapter of the complex story of life through the ages.”
Famous scientist and scholar George Gaylord Simpson has said: “It is as if the curtain were rung down suddenly on a stage where all the leading roles were taken by reptiles, especially dinosaurs, in great numbers and bewildering variety, and rose again immediately to reveal the same setting but an entirely new cast, a cast in which the dinosaurs do not appear at all, other reptiles are mere supernumeraries, and the leading parts are all played by mammals of sorts barely hinted at in the preceding acts.”
The fossil record is clear: The strata containing dinosaurs are found below strata containing modern mammals and man.
Fact #3: Many dating methods show dinosaurs lived millions of years ago.
Natural radioactive clocks such as the decay of uranium to lead, rubidium to strontium, potassium to argon, and carbon to nitrogen attest to the great antiquity of the earth. All of these methods show the earth and many fossils, including dinosaurs, are much older than 6,000 years.
Tree rings – which go back, in the case of the bristlecone pine, over 8,200 years – also establish that the earth is over 6,000 years old.
Many other dating methods yield extremely old dates for both the earth and dinosaur fossils. One method is the so-called “protein clock.” By measuring the conversion of left-handed amino acids to right-handed ones after an organism dies, the protein clock also establishes that animals lived on earth long before the supposed creation date of the Bible.
Of course, this is not to say that all dates obtained by these various methods are 100 percent accurate. In fact, in some cases grossly inaccurate results have been obtained. But, taken as a whole, they provide cogent evidence that the earth and many life forms are much older than 6,000 years.
Fact #4: Both the Bible and the stratigraphic record conflict with the view that Noah’s Flood killed the dinosaurs.
Most fundamentalists believe that all life dates from the creation week of Genesis. According to this view, all fossils must therefore have been formed since the creation of man, about 6,000 years ago. Thus many fundamentalists call upon Noah’s Flood as the mechanism which killed off the dinosaurs and produced the fossils we now find.
But Genesis 6:19 clearly states that “of every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort shalt thou bring into the ark, to keep them alive with thee: they shall be male and female.”
Dinosaurs were land-dwelling, air-breathing creatures and should therefore have been on the ark, if they were alive at that time. Therefore, they would not have been killed by the Flood and would still be alive today! The same holds true for the flying reptiles, which would have been in the ark and should have survived. The marine reptiles also should have survived, even though they would not have been on the ark. But the rocks tell us that when the land dinosaurs died, so did the marine reptiles, the ichthyosaurs, the plesiosaurs, and the mosasurs. This despite the fact they were doubtless excellent swimmers and should have survived just as other fish and sea creatures did!
So there’s really no way to fit the dinosaurs in with Noah’s Flood. Remember, the fossils record shows that the dinosaurs, flying reptiles and marine reptiles lived at a different time. They are not found intermixed with the fossils of modern birds, mammals or man. If all these life forms had lived at the same time, they should be mixed in the fossil record.
Some try to rationalize the clear separation between dinosaurs and man by saying that when Noah’s Flood came, dinosaurs were “swept away” first, but that men and other mammals swam, or were “bloated,” or by some means “survived” so their remains are found on top of the earth’s sedimentary strata. But man and many other mammals are vastly inferior swimmers compared to fish and marine reptiles. When you really analyze that argument, it just doesn’t hold water!
For these four reasons, we must reject the traditional fundamentalist idea that the earth and all life forms that have ever appeared were created a mere 6,000 years ago.
Yet the Bible does supply the answer! It recognized an inhabited earth, a pre-human world prior to the creation week of Genesis 1.Genesis 1:1 speaks of the original creation: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” But between the first two verses of Genesis, a time gap of unknown length exists. Surprising as it may seem, the Bible nowhere specifies the time of the original creation; perhaps it was billions of years ago.
Nor does the creation week of Genesis constitute the only time of creation. This is evident from verse 2 of Genesis 1, where we find something unexpected; the earth “was (became) without form, and void.” Isaiah 14 and Ez. 28 shows the earth was at one time under the rule of the archangel Lucifer, and that his rule occurred before the Genesis account of the creation of man. (Read our article Did God Create a Devil?) Thus the creation described in Genesis 1, beginning with verse 2, is a later recreation or renewal, after the world of the dinosaur. Indeed, the Bible never mentions dinosaurs, though it does name many other creatures.
The creation described in Genesis – that of mammals, birds, flowering plants and man is that of an era following the dinosaur world. It is actually a re-creation, a refurbishing of an already existing earth. With this overview of the age of reptiles, the facts of science and the account in Genesis take on new meaning. There is no real conflict between science and the Bible. But a seeming conflict sometimes arises because men have misunderstood and misinterpreted not only the fossil record but also the biblical account.
These truths have been lost to a world taught to believe either in the Bible-denying theory of evolution and a totally uniformitarian interpretation of geology or in the untenable “religious” concept of a 6,000-year-old earth and a geology based entirely on Noah’s Flood.
Dinosaurs do not disprove the Bible; there is no conflict between the fossil record and Scripture. Instead, science and the Bible mutually amplify and complement each other.