Grotesque dinosaur cannibals!
When paleontologists recently announced they had discovered fossil evidence of cannibalistic dinosaurs (see box), I rejoiced. This was just what the church needed to hear.
‘But that’s horrible’, I can imagine you saying, ‘For something to eat members of its own species is grotesque in the extreme’. And that’s exactly the point. It is grotesque—surely all Christians would be in one mind on that. Which is why I would like to show this to everyone in the church, and ask them if these dinosaurs practised their perverse cannibalism in the ‘very good’ world (Genesis 1:31) before Adam sinned, or afterwards.
Why ask this question? Because, for too long, many Christians have compromised on Genesis. While conceding that there was no human death before Adam disobeyed God, they claim it does not defy Scripture to have animal death before then, that it was ‘natural and God-ordained’ for animals to hunt their prey (citing Psalm 104:21, 27–28, for example). But this contradicts God’s instruction that animals (and man) were originally created to be vegetarian (Genesis 1:29–30; cf. 9:3), and overlooks the effect of the Curse on creation (Genesis 3:14–19; Romans 8:19–22)—i.e. the Bible clearly shows that today’s world is very different from the pre-Fall world.
It also means that these Christians struggle to answer (cf. 1 Peter 3:15) when asked, for example, by a distraught young daughter why a God of love allowed the child’s favourite pet budgerigar—the one which used to perch all day on her shoulder, from time-to-time caressing her cheek—to be caught and eaten by the neighbour’s cat.
Too often the answer sounds to the child like ‘Life’s tough, kid. That’s the way God made it.’ Or ‘For some things we have no answers—but God knows.’
So that’s why I think this issue of dinosaur cannibalism can be a wake-up call to compromising Christians to think again. If (as popular wisdom claims) these dinosaurs lived and became extinct millions of years before man walked on the earth, then that means that cannibalism existed before Adam sinned. Was that ‘very good’ in God’s sight? Of course not! Remember He commanded (Genesis 1:21, 24) that animals were to reproduce ‘after their kind’, not to eat their own kind!
In contrast, a biblical view puts the timing of these cannibal dinosaurs after the Fall, most likely being buried (and fossilized) under water-borne sediment during the global Flood of Noah’s day, around 4,500 years ago.
But why were these dinosaurs eating members of their own species rather than preying upon different species? We see today that in a post-Fall world prone to drought and famine, animals at times become sufficiently desperate to eat anything they can find—including one another, if they can get away with it.
Opportunistic cannibalism has been documented in a number of species (e.g. lions, komodo dragons and grasshopper mice),1 so it’s not surprising that evidence of cannibalism has now been found among dinosaurs as well.
The key point here, though, is that because dinosaurs are so often thought to have died out millions of years ago, Genesis-believing Christians can use this latest discovery to respectfully challenge those in the church who say, ‘I believe in creation’ but who nevertheless put the millions-of-years fossil record before the universe-corrupting actions of Adam and Eve in Eden. If all the saints were ‘one in heart and mind’ (Acts 4:32) in understanding this issue, no longer would the church feel the need to hide from a favourite taunt of skeptics: ‘How could there be a God of love when it is clearly a dog-eat-dog world?’
The post-Fall reality of cannibal dinosaurs is indeed grotesque. But, to me, so is the lion’s ripping apart a gazelle calf while its mother bleats plaintively at a distance; the stray dog’s opportunistic mauling of a child’s favourite pet rabbit; and the wild boar waiting beside cows in advanced labour, ready to tear chunks of flesh from the newborn calf even before it’s fully emerged from the birth canal.
All these things are clearly part of the cursed and hurting post-Fall world, a world that waits to be ‘liberated from its bondage to decay’ (Romans 8:21). This will be a time when ‘there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain’ (Revelation 21:4), because there will be ‘no more curse’ (Revelation 22:3).
Dinosaurs ate one another
At least one tribe of meat-eating dinosaurs didn’t just prey upon vegetarian sauropods that couldn’t fight back, but also ate their own species, according to a recent report in the scientific journal Nature. Paleontologists studied fossils of the nine-metre-long dinosaur Majungatholus atopus, unearthed in Madagascar, and concluded they were cannibals, eating each other and leaving their tooth marks in the bones of victims.
Reports of cannibalism in dinosaurs are not new, but previous evidence was not as clear-cut as in this case: 21 tooth-marked bones from two Majungatholus individuals in separate localities, with the telltale bite marks perfectly matching the teeth of skulls of the same species.
- Pilcher, H.R., Dinosaurs ate each other, Nature Science Update, nature.com, 14 August 2003. Return to text.