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Here there be dragons … but no centaurs

Wikimedia commons/Pearson Scott Foresman
Published: 10 February 2013 (GMT+10)

What’s the difference between believing in centaurs and believing in dragons? Jamie L. from Australia writes in response to The Year the Water Dragon Roared:

I am a Christian and a subscriber to your magazine. I would love to find more evidence that supports our view of a creator and loving God, however sometimes I think we are just reaching. If we use this kind of rationale, we could also perhaps say that the Egyptians knew of half men half horse centaurs. I think we can do better than this, don’t you?

CMI’s Carl Wieland responds:

Dear Jamie

Thanks very much for sending in your comments. It’s important not to overreach, as you indicate, but I wonder if you have thought the centaur-dragon matter through carefully?

I ask this because the only way I can see that the proposed dragon-dino link would be even remotely comparable to your Egyptian/Centaur example would be if there were

  1. Vast numbers of fossils of real, centaur-like creatures (CLC’s) in the rock record;
  2. No CLC’s alive today;
  3. Strong claims that CLC’s were supposed to have died out vast ages before people were supposed to have existed, yet there were:
  4. Tales of Centaurs, remarkably similar to these CLC’s, widespread throughout many different ethnic and geographic groupings.
123rf.com/Wetchawut Masathianwong

As far as I can tell, not one of these applies. Concerning (d), Centaur stories seem to be largely (perhaps exclusively) restricted to Greek mythology. Whereas this quote about dragons is quite different:

“Of all the hoary old monsters, dragons are the most persistent, appearing everywhere from mall crystal shops to Disney movies … Dragon images have been found on the Ishtar Gate of Babylon, on scrolls from China, in Egyptian hieroglyphs and Ethiopian sketches, on the prows of Viking ships, in bas relief on Aztec temples, on cliffs above the Mississippi river and even on bones carved by Inuits in climates where no reptile could live”.1

Perhaps I could go through the reasoning concerning the dragon-dinosaur link briefly again here, as it is definitely not that creationists are saying that because we have dragon stories, therefore we can be confident that there were real dragons in the past—which is the way your argument appears to be constructed. Rather, we are saying that

  1. God’s Word makes it plain (e.g. Exodus 20:11, when carefully thought through) that mankind and dinosaurs must have co-existed at one time.
  2. The rock record reveals that there were vast numbers of dinosaurs on Earth, many of which fit the descriptions of ‘dragons’ so well that if people had observed them, we would expect the sorts of tales (cultural memories if you like) that are in existence around the world. And what’s more, one would expect them to have a worldwide distribution, because all cultures have descended from the inhabitants of the Ark, and since the Flood-deposited rocks around the globe have fossils of dinos that were not extinct yet at the time of the Flood, Noah’s family would have been well aware of dinosaurs of many types.

In fact, one could go so far as to say that given the large numbers of dinosaurs which, by creationist reasoning, were buried in the Flood, and given how impressive some of these creatures must have been, it would be actually an argument AGAINST Genesis history if there were NO such cultural memories.

Furthermore, I took pains in the article to point out that one of the world’s leading evolutionary scientists recognized the dilemma of having to write all those dragon stories and their similarities to dinosaurs off as ‘sheer coincidence’, and went to great lengths to try to construct a scenario to explain it away. He would hardly have had to do that for centaurs. I also know of other evolutionists who have tried to explain it away by having early man stumble across dino fossils and somehow figuring out how they would have looked in life. (Again, that explanation has not caught the imagination of most other evolutionists, because it is fraught with impossibilities to those who know how hard it is to reconstruct the image of a dinosaur from buried bones without the specialist knowledge accumulated over generations in modern times.)

Also, the article referred to the artefacts that give strong support to the suggestion (did you look them up?) that dinosaurs were still alive at the time. For example, Bishop Bell’s tomb drawings; they are not actually like the dragons of dragon stories, but are obviously still dinosaurs, part of the same group as those dinosaurs who were like the dragons of old. If those Bell drawings had been of fierce dragon-like creatures, they could have been readily written off as just a ‘dragon dragon’ so to speak.

Finally, there was the evidence we cited, and linked to, that the ‘dragons’ in the fossil record could not have died out tens of millions of years ago, or else those fragile molecules would not have survived.

I would humbly submit that there is nothing remotely like these sorts of claims above that involve centaurs or any other creature group, real or mythological.

I do concede that some see dragons in every drawing from the ancient world, like purported images of Jesus in cheese toast or clouds. And as demonstrated in the ‘party game’ of ‘Chinese whispers’, tales get distorted with telling and retelling. However, when there is an extraordinary worldwide anthropological phenomenon, Occam’s Razor drives the search for a rational explanation that is non-random. Given the truth and authority of the Bible, the ubiquitous nature of dragon stories, including the references to dragons (and the descriptions in Job) in the Bible, would seem to be strong confirmation of its account of history.

Thanks once again, and thanks for the chance to think this matter through once more.

Kind regards in Christ,

Carl W.


  1. The New York Times, April 29, 2003, p. F1, quoted in BioEssays 25:727–733, copyright 2003 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Return to text.

Helpful Resources

Dragons or Dinosaurs?
by Darek Isaacs
US $16.00
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Dire Dragons
by Vance Nelson
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Readers’ comments

Johannes H.
Disregarding the historical observations, one might still accept the possibility of dragons having existed. With regards to a centaur, not so. Just think of the biological features. Is the centaur an insect? I mean, two arms and four legs? How many stomachs would he (it) have? Maybe it would have a digestive system like a cow? Sorry, an ox, of course, because there are no females, are there? Would the mate be a mermaid, maybe?
Christine E.
The Tarasque referred to was an ankylosaurus [links deleted as per feedback rules, but all are to wikipedia and google images]

compare the statue at [another wikipedia link].
Eugene Y.
To be fair hairy 'apemen' are renowned in many cultures, like the Orang pendek of Sumatra (some speculate that it could be Flores Man or a siamang but the eyewitness say its human-like) and the Yeren of China. Carl its interesting that you are sceptical and I dont blame you for it but you speculated that these crytips if real would be an Australopith kind. I wonder if any of these creatures that I've listed are those kinds?
I've also heard of a report that Bigfoot DNA has been extracted and analysed by a Texan doctor ( you google on that). It is said that Bigfoot mitochondrial DNA is human meaning its has a human mother but the nuclear DNA is of an unknown hominid. Many experts are sceptical about this finding becos the could be contaminated. Articles varies in Google so its interesting you do research on that. I wonder how u make of it?
Carl Wieland
I am hyperskeptical of this particular 'bigfoot DNA' claim. When one reads details about the paper, in a journal that these bigfoot enthusiasts apparently set up themselves, the techniques were so poor that even if not a deliberate hoax or publicity stunt, contamination with human researchers' own DNA seems almost inevitable. Plus how did they know that it was a 'bigfoot' sample to begin with? Some 'hair on a fence' alleged to be one of these mystery creatures, when then contaminated with human DNA...

It seems inevitable that if they exist, someone would eventually come across a specimen and video it properly on their smartphone, or come across a corpse. I'll reserve judgement, but with the approach that this is a highly unlikely scenario, and would require extraordinary evidence.
Christine E.
excellent points! however, I suspect some of the wild stories of wierd creatures were the result of some local mad scientists doing genetic engineering though how that could result in a centaur I don't know. More likely this was a story resulting from reports of people like the Huns practically living on horseback, passed through a couple of cultures before it got to Greece.
Julie A.
I have recently read the book of Enoch which if it is authentic was written pre Noah.
This suggests all sorts of fantastic beings created with fallen Angels coming to earth and that was referred to in Genesis 6.
What is your view on the writings of Enoch?
Carl Wieland
Enoch = a book that is not part of the canon of Scripture, hence not authoritative. It is cited in the Bible, so it's not to be lightly dismissed, either. I personally think it needs to be at least taken into account in the discussion about e.g. the meaning of bene elohim (sons of god), though not in the sense of being a final authority on the subject. It may not have been written by the biblical Enoch, for all we know, and it may well contain a portion of mythological overlay.
David O.
The legends about centaurs could be examples of pre-flood genetic engineering.

Matthew 24:37 Now as it was in the days of Noah, so shall it also be at the coming of the Son of man.
Carl Wieland
FWIW, I tend to discount the notion of preFlood technology equivalent to gene engineering. One would have to explain why all the foundational knowledge required to develop that technology had not been consciously taken by Noah into the new world, after all he had many decades to ensure that. Ancient man after the Flood shows great ingenuity, but that's not the same as 'knowhow', which flourished after the Reformation in Christian parts of the world. It is doubtful that the rebellious preFlood world had the proper godly worldview required to develop science in the first place. Check out creation.com on Computers on the Ark? and also The biblical roots of modern science.
joe M.
job 41 .was after the flood .god saying to job ,im big you small , can you go out and catch one and pet it . .must have been something that job had seen or god would have been wasting his breath....
psalms 104 .26 where the ships go , these play that i created ..there were ships .
Andy W.
In reading the discussion about sasquatch / yeti etc if you read "Alien Intrusion" by Gary Bates it would provide you with the most likely answer for their origins. I played around with this subject a while back and discovered that certain American Indian tribes had named them "Spirit men of the forest" (the translated name). There were accounts of hunters tracking them and their having the ability to disappear without trace, including ones they had managed to wound and trail in snow.
Bob H.
With regard to Yetis, Bigfoot, etc., I also doubt that these creatures currently exist, although it is remotely possible. However, there is an extinct creature (known from fossil bones) that was remarkably similar to the Yeti. It was a huge ape known as Gigantopithecus, and it may have walked upright. It is conceivable (but unlikely) that Gigantopithecus has survived in extreme wilderness areas. However no one thinks that Gigantopithecus was an apeman, so its survival would certainly not be evidence for evolution.
Martyn M.
Hi Carl great article, clearly reasoned.
I came across an article in a school book tilted “Dragons: Get face to face with creatures from Myths and Legends” The following paragraph was among other fascinating accounts of encounters with dragons
“In the south of France, a group of townspeople killed the Tarasque. A local dragon, after St Martha had tamed it. Afterward, the people were sorry for what they had done. They named their town Tarascon in memory of the dragon. Today, an annual parade is held in its honour.”
It sounds to me like another historic encounter with a dinosaur type of creature.
Caleb L.
Great article! I would have included the fact that many dinosaurs look like dragons, and many dragon art pieces look like dinosaurs. Anyhow, thanks for writing these articles, and keep em coming!
Cowboy Bob S.
Someone that is half man and half horse wants people to look at him. Really, he desires to be the centaur of attention.

Sorry, had to...
Stephan R.
Just in this vein of thought, (and I hope this doesn't sound silly), where do 'Yetis/apemen' fit?
According to the four arguments you used for dragons/dinosaurs and against centaurs:
1. Fossils that evolutionists claim to belong to ancestors exist, they don't always resemble man as closely as modern skulls do. Apemen?
2. None alive today.
3. Strong claims that these 'ancestors' or species of apemen were extinct before the dawn of man
4. Tales of these apemen from different regions/cultures accross the world. To name a few of the most famous: Yetis in the Himalaya, Bigfoot in America, Sasquatch in Canada, Icemen in Russia, and Yowies in Australia.

Could there have been creatures that resemble the description of the Yeti/Yowie/Bigfoot etc.?
Carl Wieland
While I have serious doubts, to put it very mildly, about these Yeti stories, etc. (and they are far less widespread than dragon tales, btw) if such a creature were to turn up, I suggest it would not be a survival to modern times of some evolutionary ancestor of humankind but rather a survival of the Australopith kind. This type of creature is admitted by even some prominent evolutionist anatomists to have been more anatomically different to both apes and humans than they are from each other, and not on the human line (this includes the famous Lucy, but evolutionists have no other serious candidates as non-human precursors to people). However, as stated, I wouldn't hold my breath about one turning up. Nevertheless, since they may only have become extinct a few centuries ago, perhaps they are the 'inspiration' for the Yeti/Bigfoot stories. However, the same could be true of gorillas or orangs themselves.
shamus M.
Well responded Carl . Concise and accurate. God's blessings to you all .

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