Convincing the Culture with Dinosaurs

Convincing the Culture with Dinosaurs

By Lael

In 1930, the Sinclair Oil Corporation began using a dinosaur as a company symbol. When this “mascot” was introduced, the marketing specialists knew they had found a winner.1 Even with the waning fortunes of the company, many remember their dinosaur logo: a gigantic Apatosaurus and the evolutionary gasoline propaganda line, “Mellowed 80 Million Years.”

It’s undeniable that dinosaurs have tremendous appeal worldwide. It’s an appeal quite different from that of any other animal. Even if cows grew to ten tons, I don’t think it would be the same. The giant lizards that were once common worldwide capture the imagination.

And dinosaurs are intimately connected with another imagination-grabbing concept: deep time. In fact, the dinosaurs have been used to sell this concept, just like they’ve been used to sell Sinclair gasoline. Let’s back up a little to see how this happened.

The Nineteenth Century: Age of Reptiles

The 1820s were important years for the dinosaurs.2 It was the start of major finds and research on dinosaurs. First there was Iguanodon. Mary Mantell, wife of Dr. Gideon Mantell, a medical doctor with a passion for geology, found some teeth embedded in road-making stone in Sussex, England. She showed these to her husband, and he immediately realized they were quite different from anything they had seen before. The teeth were “so remarkable, that the most superficial observer would have been struck with their appearance, as indicating something novel and interesting,” Mantell wrote later.3 He announced his find to established experts in geology, many of whom ascribed the teeth to a rhinoceros. Mantell didn’t agree, and nervously identified this new animal, which he named Iguanodon, as a member of the “lizard tribe.”

About the same time, science met Megalosaurus. Unlike Iguanodon, there is no anecdotal story to accompany the discovery of Megalosaurus. We know that this big lizard was discovered and named by William Buckland, an Oxford professor and a leader of the English geological establishment. To this day, there is uncertainty about the date of the discovery. (Incidentally, the first mention of Megalosaurus in print is in an 1822 work by James Parkinson, a doctor remembered today for his identification of “Parkinson’s disease!”)

Nevertheless, these mysterious giant lizards were coming to center stage in England’s scientific community during a pivotal epoch. Many new theories arising at this time were paving the way for the acceptance of Darwinian evolution. The dinosaurs became very significant in this framework as a propaganda tool for an old earth.

For one thing, dinosaurs convinced the public that extinctions had actually occurred. A reasonable question would be, “What does that have to do with anything?” We have to back up a little bit more!

Many eighteenth century scientists had held that extinctions never occurred. This touch of idealism was promoted on the basis that God would not allow any of His creatures to die off. Because of the theological appeal of this idea, people often thought of it as a Biblical view, when it actually was not. (Because of the fall, death and suffering are part of creation.4 Sometimes extinction is a corollary of this fact.) So when this view fell, people began to doubt the Bible too.

Several important fossil discoveries created a stir in the late eighteenth century. The fossilized animals found (giant sloths, mammoths, and mastodons) didn’t match any living animals. This convinced many philosophers and scientists that extinctions might have actually happened. No more idealism. But unfortunately, faithfulness to the Biblical account began to diminish as well. This is the common result of blurring the lines between man’s theory (and it may be a very nice theory) and God’s Word. (When man’s theory is debunked, it shouldn’t reflect on God. It was man who made the mistake!) In any case, this opened the door for some radical new theories to be seriously considered. Theories of an old earth, and an era before man, became increasingly common among philosophers and scientists.5

But remember, these were philosophers and scientists. The public thought giant sloths were mildly interesting, but when the dinosaurs came along, then they really began to take notice. The dinosaurs convinced the public that extinctions happened, and they also made the supposed “earlier epochs” of earth come alive.6

Mantell was an enthusiastic proponent of an era before man, or rather several eras. A powerful speaker, with his gigantic fossils as props, Mantell used his dinosaurs to paint vivid pictures of a world before man. The public soaked it all up.7

The widespread interest in dinosaurs turned into what one writer called “dinomania.” The match to the kindling was the first reconstruction of dinosaurs, made for the Crystal Palace exhibition outside London in 1854. Four dinosaurs were set up in a “Mesozoic” display that was “irresistible to the public.”8 Although not everyone accepted the “old earth” interpretation of Mantell (or the similar views of Richard Owen, who handled the reconstruction), many did.

So when Charles Darwin published the Origin of Species in 1859, he did not have to convince a nation to make a 180-degree turn from young-earth creation to evolution. They already had an old earth. And the dinosaurs had been some of the most prominent salesmen for this idea.

The Propaganda Lives On, and What to Do About It

Today, the “deep time” connection is everywhere. From Sinclair gas stations to PBS to the Smithsonian, dinosaurs and “millions of years” are linked as naturally as bread and butter. Many of us don’t give it any thought at all. But the implications are far-reaching.

The evolutionary claim that dinosaurs lived millions of years ago directly contradicts the Biblical creation account. The Bible says that God created the land animals on day six of creation, the same day as man. There is no such thing as “prehistory.” The Bible starts at the beginning: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). “He which made them at the beginning made them male and female” (Matthew 19:4).

A Biblical interpretation of the dinosaurs is pretty straightforward. God created them on day six. They lived with man from the beginning. (The descriptions of “behemoth” and “leviathan” in Job fit dinosaurs more closely than any other animal; also, it is very likely that dragon legends were actually based on dinosaur stories that became embellished over the years.) Noah took pairs of the different “kinds” of dinosaurs on the ark. The rest drowned in the flood and were buried in sediments all over the earth. Those that got off the ark after the flood encountered a radically altered world, and most died off due to a variety of factors, such as climate change and differences in the food supply.9

This conflict between the Bible and the PBS version of science has been troubling to Christians. But it really does not need to be. Science is not in conflict with the Bible. Actually, science and the Bible fit together perfectly when they are understood in the proper relationship. The problem is that people think that the evolutionary interpretation of science is a fact. No, it’s just an interpretation of the facts. Actually, there is no such thing as un-interpreted facts.10 There is no such thing as a religiously neutral science. The facts of science are either interpreted in a Biblical framework, or they are interpreted outside of a Biblical worldview. The problem is false interpretations, not the facts. Actually, the evidence provides great support for the creationist interpretation of dinosaurs. Dinosaur, big reptile — fact. Dinosaur, millions of years ago — evolutionist interpretation, not a fact. An interpretation that is fatally flawed and ultimately incapable of handling the evidence.

The Biblical interpretation is fully consistent with all that we know about dinosaurs, and it makes sense of discoveries that have baffled the evolutionists. For example, scientists at Montana State University have recently discovered soft tissue in the bones of Tyrannosaurus Rex. The tissue still retained elasticity.11 Before that, they found actual red blood cells in another T. Rex bone, complete with traces of the hemoglobin.12 When Creation Expeditions excavated the remarkable Allosaur, unfossilized organic material was found mixed among the bones of the dinosaur. It is not possible that this material, or the blood cells, or the elastic tissue, could have lasted for anything approaching the evolutionists’ 65 million year (and older) ages. While these facts are impossible to plausibly interpret by the evolutionists, creationists have no problem at all.

Dinosaurs have been used as propaganda lizards for the other side too long. It’s time to take the dinosaurs back. We can do this through teaching, interpreting the evidence in a Biblical worldview, and hands-on, “groundbreaking” research (pun intended) in God’s creation. That’s part of the unique mission of Creation Expeditions. God has blessed Creation Expeditions with some incredible finds and world-class dinosaur specimens, and this is something to be excited about. If we desire to impact the culture for the Lord, we must reclaim the dinosaurs for God. And we’re doing that!

1 “Evolution of the Company Symbol,” http://www.sinclairoil.com/history/historys_p1.htm, accessed 3 May 2005.

2 The following description is based primarily on W.E. Swinton, The Dinosaurs (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1970), chapter 1; Deborah Cadbury, The Dinosaur Hunters: A Story of Scientific Rivalry and the Discovery of the Prehistoric World (London: Fourth Estate, 2000); Justin B. Delair and William A. S. Sarjeant, “The Earliest Discoveries of Dinosaurs,” Isis 66(1):4–25, March 1975.

3 Gideon Mantell, “Notice On the Iguanodon,” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, 115:180, 1825.

4 See Genesis 3.

5 See John C. Greene, The Death of Adam: Evolution and Its Impact on Western Thought (Ames: Iowa State University Press, 1959), chapter 4; Edward J. Larson, Evolution: The Remarkable History of a Scientific Theory (New York: Modern Library, 2004), chapters 1 and 2.

6 Larson, p. 29.

7 Cadbury, chapter 10. Mantell drew on the ideas of both Cuvier and Lyell, men who disagreed about many things, but did agree that the earth was old, much older than the Biblical age of approximately six thousand years. Cadbury, pp. 218–219, and Larson, chapters 1 and 2.

8 Cadbury, pp. 298–299.

9 There is the possibility that some dinosaurs are still alive, living in the Congo jungles. For more on the Biblical interpretation of dinosaurs, and references on living dinosaur reports, see Don Batten, ed., The Answers Book, rev. ed. (Green Forest, Arkansas: Master Books, 2000), chapter 19.

10 See Greg L. Bahnsen, Always Ready: Directions For Defending the Faith, Robert R. Booth, ed. (Nacogdoches, Texas: Covenant Media Foundation, 1996).

11 Mary H. Schweitzer, Jennifer L. Wittmeyer, John R. Horner, Jan K. Toporski, “Soft-Tissue Vessels and Cellular Preservation in Tyrannosaurus rex,” Science Vol. 307 no. 5717, pp. 1952–1955, 25 March 2005; Carl Wieland, “Dinosaur soft tissue find,” 25 March 2005, http://www.answersingenesis.org/docs2005/0325Dino_tissue.asp, accessed 25 March 2005; David Menton, “‘Ostrich-osaurus’ discovery?,” 28 March 2005 http://www.answersingenesis.org/docs2005/0328discovery.asp, accessed 28 March 2005; Erik Stokstad, “Tyrannosaurus Rex Soft Tissue Raises Tantalizing Prospects,” Science, Vol. 307 no. 5717, p. 185, 25 March 2005.

12 Carl Wieland, “Sensational dinosaur blood report,” Creation 19(4):42–43, September 1997, online at http://www.answersingenesis.org/creation/v19/i4/blood.asp.