SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY
The Age of the Earth
Part 3: Dinosaurs
By Steve Webb
Greetings in Christ! This is the third in a series of blog articles that deal with the age of the Earth from a Christian perspective. I am a Christian geologist who has been working in this field of science for 38 years. I take the Bible as the accurate inspired word of God, as I have done since my youth. As explained in a prior introductory blog, I believe the Earth is considerably older than 6000 years and I do not believe that this conflicts with Scripture. The immensity of this subject is more than book length. In fact it would require many books, particularly to explain to those with limited science backgrounds. Due to the fact that my time and energy for writing on this subject is limited, all I can do is bite off a single small piece of this at a time. There are not many areas that I can speak with true authority, but this is one of them. I know my geology. I hope you will give me audience.
The sole subject of this blog article is the question of whether or not dinosaurs ever coexisted with humans, as is necessary if the Earth is only 6000 years old. A flashpoint in this area has been the identification of possible human tracks coexisting with dinosaur tracks along the Paluxy River near Glen Rose, Texas. I visited this locality both as a young geology student and again around 20 years later. On both occasions I saw a lot of dinosaur tracks but nothing that came close to resembling human tracks. This is possibly explained by the fact that the constantly shifting sands along the river bed variably obscure some tracks and uncover others, and perhaps humanlike ones were covered at that time. Whatever the case, the true dinosaur experts have long since weighed in on this after considerable study. As a very simplistic summary, they note that there are two groups of bipedal dinosaur tracks in the Paluxy River bed, theropods (meat eaters) and ornithopods (plant eaters). These bipedal dinosaurs are normally toe walking (digitigrade), but occasionally walked more flat-footed (plantigrade), impressing their soles and heels as they walked. Why they did so is not known. Perhaps these tracks represent feeding, predatory or defensive positions. The importance of this is that when the digit impressions of such tracks are partially altered by erosion or mud collapsing in around the track (both definitely occurring in this locality) they can resemble giant human tracks, causing the controversy that has never disappeared. I conclude that none of these tracks are human, but for the sake of argument, let's assume there is a possibility that they are human.
The much larger debate on this topic lies outside of the Paluxy River site. There have now been well over a million dinosaur fossil remains found, and easily a comparable number of ancient human remains. Fossil remains of both groups have been found on every continent except Antarctica. Both dinosaurs and humans are good at leaving recognizable remains that preserve well in the geologic record. I have personally found a number of dinosaur fossil bones, some by accident only a few months ago in Argentina. One has to ask the question that if humans and dinosaurs coexisted, why is there not more definitive evidence of it? Why don't we find human bones, arrowheads, campfire remains, hand prints, stone tools, or petroglyphs in association with dinosaur remains? There should literally be thousands of such sites, not just some isolated footprints of a highly controversial nature. Furthermore, the interaction of humans with dinosaurs would have been dynamic to say the least, surely meriting more than some passing questionable references in the Bible.
But even more definitive than this is the study of geologic strata containing these two fossil groups. Those with a limited knowledge of geology may not appreciate the advances that have been made in our science in the past couple decades. In particular are the advancements in seismic where we now routinely image the rock in the subsurface under our feet via reflected sound waves down to easily more than 10,000 feet deep (sometimes to 30,000!). We can now view these images in a true 3-D sense, walking in and out of the underground rock while wearing our 3-D glasses like you wear in a movie theater. Perhaps more impressive is that with this data we can readily identify the type of underground rock and its structural disposition, be it faulted, folded, or smoothly layered. A person might ask whether we can truly tell limestone from dolomite from sandstone from shale from salt from anhydrite from granite with this data, and the answer is a definite yes! And we constantly confirm this ability by drilling to find oil, gas and minerals. The importance of this is that we are no longer limited to studying surface outcrops with their variable amounts of nice dirt-free exposure. We now know a whole lot more about this Earth than geologists did when I was a youth.
With this seismic (and combined with surface outcrops) we now easily and routinely see the strata in which dinosaur remains are found with respect to the strata where human remains are found. It is hard for me to overemphasize the fact that these strata are far apart. They are really far apart. They are far apart almost always in intervening sediment thickness (thousands of feet) but also in geological processes that require substantial amounts of time to form. These include sedimentation rates, erosion rates, precipitation rates of various minerals, soil formation, and others. These intervening sediments are not flood deposits (which are easy to identify) nor are they the result of cataclysmic events (also easy to identify). Purely on the basis of geologic observation, dinosaurs and humans never came close to living with each other. They are way more than thousands of years apart.
On a personal note, I wish this wasn't true. It would be fantastic if humans and dinosaurs coexisted, and it would make some of the Bible more straightforward to interpret. I would not hesitate in the slightest to assume this view if I believed it had the slightest chance of being true. But I don't. I have looked at this issue as hard as I know how, being a Christian who loves God, loves the Bible, and ever concerned that I not mislead my brothers and sisters in the Lord. The truth is that dinosaurs and humans did not coexist. For those of you who wish to dig into more of the Paluxy River site information, I include an educational link at the end of this article. Blessings and keep the faith!
Please note, as a ministry, GotQuestions.org officially holds to Young Earth Creationism. We truly and fully believe that Young Earth Creationism best fits with the biblical account of creation. However, we recognize that Old Earth Creationism is a valid viewpoint that a Christian can hold. In no sense is Old Earth Creationism heresy and in no sense should Old Earth Creationists be shunned as not being brothers and sisters in Christ. We thought it would be worthwhile to have some articles that positively present Old Earth Creationism, as it is always good for our viewpoints to be challenged, motivating us to further search the Scriptures to make sure our beliefs are biblically sound.
References: The Texas Dinosaur/"Man Track" Controversy
Image credit: fossilmike; Some rights reserved
Age of the Earth: The SeriesPart 1: Introduction
Part 2: Radiometric Age-Dating
Part 3: Dinosaurs
Part 4: Tree Rings
Part 5: The Meaning of Yom
Part 6: Other Scriptural Difficulties
Part 7: Noah's Flood
Part 8: Hebrew-Judaeo Worldview
Part 9: Who were the Cavemen?
Part 10: The Garden of Eden
Part 11: Bible Genealogies
Tags: Controversial-Issues | Science-Creation
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