Several releases from the entertainment world have spawned a popular market for dinosaur-themed merchandise. These gigantic creatures, shown destroying entire human settlements with one swish of their tails or swipe from their paws, grip our imagination.
Did God Create Dinosaurs?
By Raul Esperante
Several releases from the entertainment world have spawned a popular market for dinosaur-themed merchandise. These gigantic creatures, shown destroying entire human settlements with one swish of their tails or swipe from their paws, grip our imagination. Did God create creatures so formidable? Why aren’t they mentioned in the Bible?
Where Do They Come From? The evidence that dinosaurs existed is clear: we have bones, teeth, eggs, footprints, even skin molds. However, the picture of dinosaurs revealed by science is quite different from that of the entertainment industry. Paleontologists have been able to study fossilized stomach contents and coprolites (dung) of dinosaurs, and have found that many dinosaurs were actually herbivores. Study of their bones and footprints have revealed that some were small, similar in size to a sheep or dog. For example, Struthiomimus was the size of an ostrich, and Compsognathus was no larger than a rooster.
Genesis 1 tells us that God created the land animals on the sixth day of Creation week, and provided “every green plant for food.” Dinosaurs must have been included, since they were land animals. We should not be surprised that dinosaurs are not mentioned specifically in the Bible. First, the word “dinosaur” did not exist at the time of Moses. Second, many other groups of animals are not mentioned in the Bible, such as sharks, and starfish, to name a few.
At the end of that sixth day of Creation week, God saw that His creation was good—even “very good.” This raises a problem. Although many dinosaurs were plant eaters, some of them were large, fearsome carnivores that would pose a danger to human life. Can we regard these gigantic, ferocious, potentially human-eating dinosaurs as “good”? Do these carnivorous dinosaurs fit in the newly created, vegetarian, perfect world?
The Entrance of Sin and Dinosaurs The biblical account of Creation suggests that the curse that followed the fall of Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:14-19) caused biological changes that led to changes in the diet and behavior of many animals, giving rise to current competitive relationships, predation, and parasitism. Although the Bible does not describe these changes in detail, they are interpreted today as genetic modification, since we know from science that such major changes would require genetic alteration. We do not know whether the changes occurred immediately or developed over several generations, but they were in full evidence by the time the dinosaurs were buried by the Flood.
At some point in earth’s history, dinosaurs disappeared. There is no valid historical record of live dinosaurs, despite some wishful claims to the contrary. Some have speculated that biblical references to mythical creatures may be based on cultural memories of pre-Flood dinosaurs, but we have no way of confirming this. The Bible mentions the behemoth (Job 40:15-18) and Leviathan (Job 41:1), which some have interpreted as possible examples of post-Flood dinosaurs. However, many scholars identify the behemoth as probably the hippo, and Leviathan as the crocodile. Both species lived in the Nile, where ancient Hebrews would have encountered them. Uncertainty about the identity of the creatures does not justify any claim that dinosaurs are mentioned in the Bible.
Most Creation scientists believe that dinosaurs disappeared during the Genesis flood or shortly thereafter, but more study is needed for a better understanding of these creatures. Deciphering the mystery of the disappearance of the dinosaurs requires rigorous and careful research that Christians with interest and ability should be encouraged to undertake. It is possible that research on dinosaurs could lead to important breakthroughs in our understanding of the biblical record of Creation and the Flood.
I once stood with a friend next to a gravel pile. Among the crushed rocks we saw an unmistakable stone arrowhead. The arrowhead’s specifications were unlikely to be matched by the randomly broken stones surrounding it. So we both concluded it was designed, not simply a product of chance or natural laws.
Design and Natural Laws Experience tells us that chance is an unsatisfying explanation for improbable objects that meet certain specifications, such as those of an arrowhead. But if chance is insufficient, why not invoke natural laws to explain the origin of things that use them, such as arrowheads, machines, or living organisms? Machines ranging from molecular motors inside cells to cars exploit natural laws. Cars do not run on miracles; they are machines that convert energy from oil or electricity into kinetic energy to transport us. Like other machines, cars use natural laws to achieve our goals. Operating according to natural laws is not the same as being a product of natural laws.
Cooperation Within living organisms, as with cars, the parts essential to the processes they perform sometimes come from diverse suppliers. One example can be found in the roots of legumes, plants that make protein-rich beans. In the cooperative process of extracting nitrogen from air to make proteins, the plant provides energy and creates special low oxygen conditions necessary for a bacterium to “fix nitrogen.” To soak up oxygen, which prevents nitrogen fixation, an “oxygen sponge” called leghemoglobin is used.
It was once thought that the protein part of leghemoglobin is made by the plant, while the bacterium supplies the heme molecule that holds the oxygen-binding iron. Now it appears that at least sometimes the plant makes the entire leghemoglobin complex.* This process beautifully illustrates the cooperative nature of creation. It is similar to the way well-designed factory departments cooperate together to produce cars or bowling balls, candy or electronic gadgets. If each production step didn’t fit an overarching plan, nothing would be made.
The necessity of a plan is true for all organisms, because organisms cannot survive alone. Cooperation does not benefit just the organisms directly involved; in the case of nitrogen fixation, it benefits all life. Rare breakdowns in this cooperation illustrate why it is essential for life; for instance, when non-native organisms are introduced into a new setting, they may disrupt ecosystems. Even normally benign or helpful bacteria, such as staphylococcus or E. coli, can cause sickness or death. Yet these are exceptions, not the rule.
The question should not be whether or not nature appears designed. From the trillions of nonhuman cells that live in our bodies cooperating with us in various ways that keep us healthy and happy, down to the molecular machines that keep each cell running, all the way up to the cooperation between plants and animals that keeps animals fed and plants pollinated, the real question is “Who is responsible for the marvelous designs we see brought to life all around us?” Who came up with the necessary plans? The Bible provides a compelling answer that also accounts for the, thankfully uncommon, exceptions to the beautiful design that pervades creation. Design in nature is far more amazing than a simple stone arrowhead, and has far more profound implications. The Bible liberates us to see it and praise the Designer.
* M. A. Santana, K. Pihakaski-Maunsbach, N. Sandal, K. A. Marcker, and A. G. Smith, “Evidence That the Plant Host Synthesizes the Heme Moiety of Leghemoglobin in Root Nodules,” Plant Physiology 116, no. 4 (1998): 1259-1269. Online at www.plantphysiol.org/content/116/4/1259.
Tim Standish, Ph.D., is a senior scientist at the Geoscience Research Institute and lives in southern California, United States.