Dialogue 5(2):9-11,34 (1993). --- Reproduced here with permission and the accompanying acknowledgements at the end, after being adapted, modified, and updated.
Dinosaurs! Just the name triggers vivid images of either Tyrannosaurus
rex, a gigantic carnivore,1 or the
enormous plant-eating sauropods,2 like Diplodocus. Supersaurus,3
a sauropod with a length of up to 140 feet (43.75 meters) according to some,
weighed almost 50 metric tons (about the weight of 7 African elephants).4
Even the smallest sauropods, approximately 30 feet
(9.38 meters) in length.
The herbivorous dinosaurs must have required a lush plant population to survive. However, the plant material preserved in the rocks associated with their remains seems to be insufficient. Resolution of this problem is difficult for most scientists.5 Biblical creationists are not surprised that the necessary food supply can be found in other rock layers because they assume these layers were deposited during a worldwide Flood.
Given the dissociation of dinosaur and human bones, it is no wonder some individuals doubt that people and dinosaurs could have ever coexisted. As Christians who accept the Genesis account, it is important to realize that considerable scientific evidence corroborates the biblical story of Creation and the Flood. It is within this context that biblical creationists believe humans and dinosaurs coexisted before the Genesis Flood
The role that dinosaurs may have played in earth's
history has aroused the curiosity of the Christian community. In the past some
who were frustrated with the sketchy dinosaur fossil record simply refused to
believe that God would have created such creatures. Within the past 15 years,
however, our knowledge of dinosaurs has increased substantially. In 1990,
Dodson gave a conservative count of 285 genera of dinosaurs that had been identified
These identifications by paleontologists are based on more than just one or two bones from more than half of these large dinosaurs. In addition to bone fragments, isolated bones, bone-beds and articulated skeletons, paleontologists have discovered trackways,7 skin impressions,8 gastroliths (gizzard stones),9 juvenile dinosaurs,10 hatchlings,11 embryos, eggs and nests.12 Furthermore, the first appearance of at least 20 genera of dinosaurs in the geologic column (rock record) occurs in the same unit (Carnian) of the Triassic period in deposits on 4 continents.13 (It should be noted that this diverse and sudden, widespread appearance of dinosaurs in the record is difficult to explain according to current evolutionary theory.)
The task of identifying and reassembling the dinosaur bones is challenging. However, these skeletons are not just a poorly constructed hodge-podge of bones, as some have suggested. Aspects of the skulls, hips, thighs, legs, and feet are used to identify dinosaurs.14 Taxonomically, there are two orders of dinosaurs: Saurischia (lizard hip) and Ornithischia (bird hip) with three and six suborders, respectively. By 1990, complete skeletons of 197 genera had been reconstructed. The existence of so much dinosaur diversity before the Genesis flood suggests that there may have been a kind of dinosaurs that formed a part of God's original creation. Although there are a number of giant genera, 31 of the 58 dinosaur families have no members exceeding 20 feet (6.09 meters) in length,15 the size of a contemporary African elephant.16 With this in mind, perhaps it is not so difficult to envision a pre- or postflood world that included these smaller carnivorous and herbivorous dinosaurs.
Some Christians have argued that dinosaurs resulted from some type of cross-breeding or genetic engineering by pre-flood humans or Satan. Such organisms do not produce naturally breeding populations without continued intervention. There is ample evidence to suggest that at least some of the dinosaurs were naturally breeding populations. The Willow Creek Anticline, Montana, may have served as a nesting area for Troodon, Maiasaura and a third typeof dinosaur.17
Troodon, a bipedal flesh-eater about 6 and 1/2 feet (0.3 meters) in length with large eyes and a retractable second toe, built nests that consisted of up to 24 eggs laid in a spiral pattern, point down.18 Some of the unhatched eggs contained identifiable embryos. Since researchers have found some eggshell material that is broken but not crushed, they have suggested that the young may have left the nest soon after hatching.19
The second nest building dinosaur at the Montana site was Maiasaura, a 30 foot (9.38 meters) long herbivore.20 Several maiasaurs may have constructed as many as 11 nests on a single level. Four of the bowl-shaped nests consisted of only eggshells, but four others contained hatchlings. One of the nests had 11 hatchlings inside with 4 more babies nearby. Three partial clutches were found. In one nest, 10 eggs were found in a paired, linear arrangement with an 11th egg nearby. Unlike the Troodon young, baby Maiasaura may have remained at the nest site to be cared for by adults. This idea was suggested because eggshells associated with the maiasaur hatchlings are crushed more than the Troodon shells.21
Although skepticism with respect to the existence of dinosaurs in the past is understandable, it is difficult to deny their past existence today. The mass mortality sites and bone beds that have been discovered have yielded specimens for museum collections around the world. An example of one of these mass mortality sites is found in the badlands of
Finally the existence of giant genera seem to pose a problem for some people. Many Christians are uncomfortable with the idea that God might have created large carnivores such as T. rex and Allosaurus, or even some of the "smaller" meat-eaters like Velociraptor. One possible explanation is that during the time between creation week and the flood, the effects of sin altered many organisms, including the dinosaurs.
Some Christians have advanced the Bible texts speaking of
animals called leviathan and behemoth (Job chapters 40 & 41) as biblical
support for the existence of dinosaurs both before and after the flood. Other
individuals have suggested that various legends about dragons represent
historical evidence for the coexistence of dinosaurs and people. It would not
be difficult to find evidence for the existence of dinosaurs after the Genesis
flood if we could find the articulated skeleton of a Velociraptor
impaled on the tusk of a fully articulated wooly mammoth, an animal commonly
associated with human history. In reality, dinosaur remains have not been found
in deposits above the Cretaceous rocks in the geologic column. This fact, however,
does not necessarily rule out the possibility of some dinosaur survival via the
It seems reasonable to assume that not all of the earth's surface was exposed simultaneously as the flood waters receded. In other words, rocks that are visible today may represent material deposited 1) during the flood, 2) as flood waters receded, or 3) after the close of the flood year. Within the context of a short chronology for the history of life on earth, postflood deposition of dinosaur remains would need evidence of passing time after the period of deposition postulated during the one-year flood. In addition, the remains should occur at or near the top of the rock record of the region in which it was deposited so that no flood deposited material overlies it.
However, any extended postflood dinosaur survival is unlikely since confirmed Cenozoic dinosaur remains have not yet been found. The rather tenuous and somewhat ambiguous lack of evidence may imply their survival was short-lived. If that is true, their demise is not too surprising. Extinctions are to be expected in the dramatically altered and unstable postflood world. The cataclysmic destruction of the earth by water had an impact on marine systems, structure of the earth, climate, and plant life, as well as the land animals released from the ark.
The history of dinosaurs is fascinating and many people have some strong opinions about these creatures. As Christians we need to be cautious because dinosaurs are not addressed by name in the scriptures. Those descriptions usually attributed to the dinosaurs (e.g., leviathan and behemoth) may also be applied to other organisms that are preserved in the fossil record as well as some living forms. Even though we may not fully understand the role of dinosaurs in earth's history, it is clear from the biblical record that the Genesis flood was a judgement against humanity's sin that largely destroyed the antediluvian plant and animal kingdoms. Dinosaurs also suffered in that destruction. It is equally clear in the flood account that God directly intervened to save all of His creation that He could possibly save. Some of the dinosaurs may have been included in that effort.
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NOTES AND REFERENCES