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Dr Jonathan Sarfati

Did a meteor wipe out the dinosaurs?

What about the iridium layer?

by (2001)

The real (Biblical) history of the dinosaurs

The extinction of the dinosaurs is one of the greatest mysteries of secular science. It would not be if people believed the true eye-witness account of Earth’s history recorded in the Bible. This reveals that:

  • Land animals (this includes dinosaurs) and man were created on Day 6 about 6,000 years ago—so dinosaurs lived at the same time as people.
  • Adam sinned and brought death, disease and bloodshed into the world. Before then, no dinosaur could have died.
  • A global Flood occurred about 1,656 years later, wiping out all land animals that breathe though nostrils (that weren’t on the Ark). Thus billions of animals were buried quickly and formed fossils. This is when most dinosaur fossils formed.
  • Noah took two of every kind of land animal (seven of the ‘clean’ ones) on board an ocean-liner–sized Ark — this included dinosaurs. For more information, see How did all the animals fit on Noah’s Ark?
  • After the Flood, the descendants of those dinosaurs existed for a while with humans, and there seem to be eye-witness accounts of them, e.g. in Job 40:15 ff. and in the many dragon legends found around the world.
  • Eventually they all died out, except for possible rare sightings in uninhabited areas which have not been properly verified. The causes were probably no more dramatic than those that cause extinctions of other species, e.g. man’s hunting, change of climate, loss of food source, fragmentation of habitat.

For more information on the true history of the dinosaurs, see Q&A: Dinosaurs.

Secular theories

Those who disbelieve the Bible have invented many different explanations for the demise of the dinosaurs:

  • Mammals eating dinosaur eggs.
  • New narcotic plants evolved.
  • Global cooling/global warming.
  • Loss of plants causing herbivores to starve, which in turn caused the carnivores to starve.
  • Lowering of oxygen partial pressure in the atmosphere.

Great impact theory

The current ‘glamour’ theory was proposed by the geologist Walter Alvarez in about 1980, that a meteor strike 66.4 million years ago caused dramatic climatic changes much like ‘nuclear winter’. This caused the extinction of the dinosaurs and many other species. His evidence was his discovery of an allegedly world-wide layer of clay with a high iridium content. His father Luis, who won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1968 for work on subatomic particles, helped him publicize the theory. It is now accepted as ‘proven fact’ in many circles, and popularized in ‘documentaries’ such as Walking with Dinosaurs.

Problems with the ‘great impact’ theory

The secular book The Great Dinosaur Extinction Controversy exposes the way that the meteor explanation for the dinosaur extinction has become a new dogma that has way outstripped the evidence (see review by Carl Wieland in Journal of Creation 12(2):154–158, 1998). Some of the reasons are:

  • The extinction was not that sudden (using evolutionary/long age interpretations of the geological record). But the spread in the geological record makes sense if much of the sedimentary deposits were formed in Noah’s Flood.
  • Light-sensitive species survived.
  • Extinctions don’t correlate with crater dates.
  • Modern volcanic eruptions don’t cause global extinction patterns, even if they cause a temporary temperature drop.
  • The iridium enrichment, supposedly a key proof of meteor impact, is not nearly as clearly defined as claimed.
  • Drill cores of the apparent ‘smoking gun’ Chicxulub Crater on the Yucatán peninsula in south-east Mexico do not support the idea that it is an impact crater.
  • It seems that some scientists didn’t speak out against the idea for fear of undermining the ‘nuclear winter’ idea, and being grouped with ‘nuclear warmongers’.

The overview article by meteorologist Mike Oard, ‘The extinction of the Dinosaurs’ (Journal of Creation 11(2):137–154, 1997) explains many features of dinosaur fossils that are consistent with a flood, and dinosaur tracks consistent with fleeing from encroaching flood waters. Oard points out that iridium enrichment can be caused by massive volcanism, as many evolutionists agree. This would certainly have been a feature of the Flood year, associated with the breaking up of the ‘fountains of the great deep’ (Genesis 7:11). However, Oard agrees that the largest iridium anomalies were caused by meteorites striking during the Flood:

‘Iridium-rich clay falling from the atmosphere would accumulate only during temporary lulls in the Flood.’

This explains the fact that so-called spikes are really composed of multiple spikes or are spread over a wider layer of sediment. John Woodmorappe has pointed out:

‘there are now over 30 iridium “horizons” in the Phanerozoic record. These can be explained by a slowdown in sedimentation rate as iridium rained from the sky (whether from a terrestrial, or an extraterrestrial source). They pose no problem for the Flood at all.’

That is, the iridium layers mark lulls in the sedimentation rate during the Flood, the iridium ‘rain’ itself being more-or-less continuous during the Flood.

K/T (Cretaceous/Tertiary) boundary

Oard also pointed out that the K/T boundary supposedly marking the end of the dinosaur age is most likely not synchronous around the world, and is not defined coherently. Very few dinosaur fossils are actually found near this boundary. Sometimes the argument becomes very circular. For example, the end of the dinosaur era is supposed to be clearly marked in the geological column by the K/T boundary, but in many localities the K/T boundary is defined by the highest dinosaur fossil. Or else the Alvarez theory is supported by the iridium spike in the K/T boundary, but in some localities the K/T boundary is defined by the iridium spike.

Update: in 2008, seven years after this article was published, the International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS) replaced the Tertiary Period with the Paleogene and Neogene periods. Thus the K-T boundary was renamed K-Pg boundary.


The Bible provides the only coherent framework within which we can properly interpret history, including that of the dinosaurs. Other theories are doomed to failure, even the glamorous ‘deep impact’ theory, because all circumstantial evidence counts for nothing if it ignores the only eye-witness account we have of Creation and the Flood — the Bible.

Update 21 May 2009: Princeton geoscientist Gerta Keller offers new evidence that meteorite did not wipe out dinosaurs.