If dinosaurs lived with people not long ago then what happened to them? Any Literal Solar-Day Young Earth Creationist is going to have to contend with this question. At the Answers in Genesis conference that I attended recently the speaker, Bryan Osborne posed this very question to the kids in his audience knowing they would want to know. After spending a few minutes making light of current theories about dinosaur extinction (comet impact, volcanism, and they evolved into birds – I’m not sure how the latter is a theory about their extinction) he proceeded to claim that dinosaurs simply “faded” from this world not long after departing Noah’s ark.
What caused this gradual fading into extinction? He provided several hypotheses which he supported with contradictory evidence and logic when compared to material he presented in a talk the night before and other YEC writings. However, I should point out that the speaker, Bryan Osborne, doesn’t appear to be responsible for the content of his talk and lacks expertise on almost every topic that I heard him speak about. He is a bible teacher by training with no science background. The structure of his talk and much of his what he said was taken nearly verbatim from Chapter 12 entitled “What really happened to the dinosaurs” from The New Answers Book by Ken Ham. So his talk represents Ken Ham’s understanding of what happened to dinosaurs and like most speakers from Answers in Genesis he is simply delivering that message rather than acting as an expert who has studied the material himself. It is not surprising then that there are rarely ever opportunities for questions from the audience at AiG conferences and this one was no exception.
What is Ken Ham’s view of dinosaur extinction: Ken Ham puts it this way: “Post-Flood climatic change, lack of food, disease, and man’s activities caused many types of animals to become extinct.” Osborne reiterated the same points to his young audience. I’m sure to the kids this sounded simple and was probably convincing but is there any evidence that dinosaurs recently roamed the earth and that they suffered from climate change, lack of food, had diseases and man hunted them to extinction?
I don’t think so. None of these claims holds up when scrutinized. As an aside, I also find the appeal to climate induced or human induced extinction a little ironic given Ham’s stance on modern climate change.
Before we address the question of evidence for and against dinosaurs walking the Earth in recent history we first need to understand a bit more about just what the YEC hypothesis is claiming about dinosaurs. From statements made earlier in Osborne’s talk we know that he believes that God preserved at least 50 different kinds of dinosaurs on the ark and thus they survived the flood and must have lived for some time after they departed the ark. But how long? As we saw in my previous post (Dinosaurs and Humans Living Together?), YECs believe that many cultures had contact with dinosaurs resulting in the legends and drawing of dragons. Thus dinosaurs must have dispersed far and wide from the Ark prior to their extinction. In other words, they didn’t simply walk off the ramp and all fall victim to the weather that day or become Noah’s first meaty meal.
We can further surmise that dinosaurs were still alive well after the Tower of Babel incident which itself didn’t occur until several hundred years after Noah’s flood. Why? Because Ken Ham says that people did not disperse across the globe and diversify culturally until after this event. But, the YEC literature tells us that the great Ice Age occurred around the same time which allowed land bridges to form between North America and Asia and bridged islands with continents. So, if dinosaurs reached North and South America after the Flood they also must have waited until after these bridges formed to cross over and thus lived well into the Ice Age if not beyond.
We are left with one big question: If they survived for that long and under so many different conditions on Earth why then did they all die? This is getting all quite confusing but such is the logic of the YEC hypothesis once you start trying to piece together explanations for many separate problems. They quickly begin to contradict each other.
Not enough food? We have records of billions of Ice Age mammals they could have eaten. Also, tropical forests and their bounty may have been reduced in size but they still existed throughout the entire Ice Age. How is it that billions of Ice Age mammals and many other mammals managed to do just fine? Some YECs suggest that it would not have been “good” for dinosaurs to live today with humans because of the dangers they pose to our well-being. Thus God made sure (i.e. predestined them to death) they wouldn’t have the skills to survive in the new world after the flood. But, then why preserve them at all? In addition, Osborne and others emphasize, because they want to get them all squeezed into the ark, in their talks that the average size of a dinosaur was that of a sheep or small cow and the large ones were therefore unusual. So how could the survival of small dinosaurs be so bad and why couldn’t a few small dinosaurs have survived especially in the many environments that were not affected by the Ice Age. How could food limit the small dinosaurs when thousands of species of other animals have done just fine?
Disease? That is easy to blame but where is the evidence? Since we have no evidence of dinosaurs existing after a global flood it is hard to find evidence they were more susceptible to disease than any other animal but it also means that this is nothing more than a guess. Dinosaurs are said to have not been fit for the environments and were out-competed. But this is contrary to the usual YECs belief that God provided amazing diversity of genes to the animals on the Ark such that they were able to come off the ark and adapt and change into thousands of different species (Invoking Super-Speed Evolution: How to squeeze 10,000 bird species onto the ark). It seems odd that God would have left the dinosaurs so deprived of genetic diversity that they would all be killed by disease. And what disease could attack 50 completely different kinds of animals so well?
Nonetheless, the YEC proposal is that despite being able to migrate across the face of the Earth they grew fewer in numbers and as they did so the memory of them faded in the minds of people eventually becoming just part of distorted myths about dragons in many cultures (see the “faded” figure above).
Which of Ham’s possible causes are we left with? We are left with Human-Induced Dinosaur Extinction (HIDE). At the talk I attended, Osborne also finished with this last possible cause for their extinction suggesting that many dinosaurs became extinct due to human trophy hunters. We will see some problems with this a bit later.
Are an Ice Age, lack of food, disease, and human trophy hunting reasonable hypotheses for the extinction of the dinosaurs? To kids and adults who know nothing about the fossil record, geology or a number of fields of biology this might sound plausible. To anyone else this hypothesis is nothing more than wishful thinking lacking any observational support.
Let’s explore just one huge problem that illustrates why the recent extinction of dinosaurs is nothing more than grasping at anything to support their conviction that this must be true because their interpretation of Scripture requires it to be so.
If there were so many dinosaurs around just over 4000 years ago where then is the physical evidence?
This is similar to the question; where are all the human fossils in the flood deposits? But I think this lack of physical evidence of dinosaurs living 4000 years ago is a far more difficult problem for Ken Ham.
Remember, dinosaurs must have existed in some significant numbers across diverse parts of the Earth to account for what YECs say is evidence of co-existence – the presence of stories and presumed drawings of dinosaurs in multiple cultures.
So where are the dinosaur bones? If the Egyptians tamed dinosaurs where are their bones? Surely, the massive femurs of a dinosaur would have made for incredible trophies. If people killed dinosaurs surely they would have kept a triceratops horn. The razor-blade like teeth of all those therapods would have made incredible handy cutting tools that would have had tremendous value and thus passed down from generation to generation. Why did so many ancient people use crude rock tools when they could have been using dinosaur teeth and claws scavenged from dead dinosaurs to process meat? When ancient people were buried with their treasures of rhino horn, carved tusks, and eagles’ talons why were none buried with the claws, teeth, or carved bones of a dinosaur? If humans were dinosaur trophy hunters as Osborne suggested, where are their trophies? Surely they would have brought back dinosaur horns and claws as proof of their kills.
Several species of elephants once lived in the Middle East. We have evidence of that in the form of their bones and tusks and even fossil footprints (see: Preservation of Behavior: Fossilized elephant tracks from the Arabian peninsula). The skulls of mastodons were collected in ancient roman times and preserved by communities as revered as the remains of ancient “giants” (see: Dinosaurs, Dragons and Ken Ham: The Literal Reality of Mythological Creatures). The tusks were displayed and used to carve implements and artwork.
YECs would have us believe that dinosaurs lived 4000 years ago and died and didn’t leave a single bone behind but woolly mammoths and mastodons lived at least that long ago and they have left millions of tusks and as many bones behind for us to see, touch and feel. The observational evidence is utterly lacking for dinosaurs. If dinosaurs couldn’t hack the deserts of Egypt and died there, their massive bones would still be laying on the surface or just beneath the sands. Bones of camels, cows, canines, felines and even humans have been found in the deserts of Egypt that are thousands of years old. Instead of building an Ark, Ken Ham could be spending far less money to send out expeditions to find the remains of these recently deceased animals that he is sure must exist.