‘Prehistoric’ Preachers: Dinosaurs as “the gateway drug to atheism”
What is their real message?
Published: 12 January 2017 (GMT+10)
Dinosaurs have the power to captivate audiences, both young and old. They have fuelled people’s imaginations for generations. The veil of mystery surrounding them only adds to the intrigue. Where did the great beasts come from? Why did they go extinct? Such questions fuel the passion of a million would-be paleontologists still under the age of ten! It is no overstatement to say that almost every child, and adult for that matter, has heard of the fearsome Tyrannosaurus rex. Hollywood has cashed in on the public’s fascination with dinosaurs over the years, producing the Jurassic Park franchise. The most recent instalment, Jurassic World, was released in 2015. In addition to this, multiple documentaries and cartoons exist making use of the best CGI1 to bring the message of these ‘Prehistoric Preachers’ to a new generation.
Given their popularity, it is important to understand the message being communicated through these fascinating creatures. In an interview for the Huffington Post, David Krentz, the character designer for the 2014 big-budget 3D movie Walking with Dinosaurs, commented that,
“I have always said that dinosaurs are the gateway drug to science for kids.” 2
The thing about gateway drugs is that they lead to something else, in this case ‘science’. In this context, the term is clearly referring to a naturalistic interpretation of science—concerning events that happened in the past—not the observational science done in laboratories today. One blogger, writing for The Meaning Without God Project, phrases it even more candidly:
“Dinosaurs were my gateway drug to Atheism. And while I was still six or seven years away from reaching the conclusion that God either didn’t care about us or didn’t exist, the Dinosaurs had shared an important secret—that the Bible can be wrong.”3
Which history is attached to them?
Here is the crux of the issue: dinosaurs are being used to undermine the historicity of the Bible, particularly the Creation account in the book of Genesis. This has led many to abandon Christianity altogether, seeing it as incompatible with the alleged ‘facts’ of evolutionary history. In a recent article, historian Tom Holland recounts how his childhood faith was continually challenged by his other interests:
“First, there were dinosaurs. I vividly remember my shock when … I opened a children’s Bible and found an illustration on its first page of Adam and Eve with a brachiosaur. Six years old I may have been, but of one thing … I was rock-solid certain: no human being had ever seen a sauropod. … A faint shadow of doubt, for the first time, had been brought to darken my Christian faith.”4
Tragically, many Christians have been ill-prepared to withstand this onslaught and remain confused about what to do with dinosaurs and the Bible. Many have based their thinking about this subject on information gathered from the secular (evolutionary) education system or popular media rather than the Bible. When dinosaurs are interpreted within a biblical worldview, a framework is provided to explain the wealth of fascinating facts about these amazing animals; in other words, to demonstrate that much scientific evidence exists to support the biblical position.
The Bible really does explain dinosaurs!
Contrary to the view of evolutionary history, that dinosaurs existed in some ‘prehistoric’ era, the Bible declares that dinosaurs were created on Day 6 of Creation Week along with the rest of the land animals and with Adam and Eve (Genesis 1:24–25). This means that humans and dinosaurs did coexist. Some people object, asking “why, then, does the Bible not mention dinosaurs?” However, this is no surprise, seeing that the word dinosaur is a relatively recent invention, coined in 18415 by Sir Richard Owen. Before then, many of these creatures were described using the word ‘dragon’. There are many places in the Bible where these creatures are mentioned (e.g. Psalm 74:13; Isaiah 34:13). The book of Job also provides a fascinating description of an animal called behemoth, which matches the characteristics of a sauropod dinosaur (Job 40:15-24). Further evidence that dinosaurs and man coexisted can be seen in the array of artistic depictions resembling dinosaurs found throughout the world. There are also the many recorded encounters with ‘dragons’ which appear in many cultures across the globe.
More recently, the continued discovery of soft tissues, red blood cells, bone cells, proteins and even radiocarbon in dinosaur bones indicate that they cannot be as old as the evolutionary timeline suggests. Still further evidence is seen in the way that dinosaur fossils are found in sedimentary rock layers stretching right across the continents, and often in positions which require rapid burial and demonstrate that enormous forces were once at work. The global Flood of Noah’s day provides a very good explanation for these features within a biblical framework.
For these reasons, among many others, dinosaurs can be used very effectively to preach the truth about biblical history and the message of the Gospel. To ensure that you and your family are equipped to answer these challenges and engage the culture we recommend that you obtain some of the dinosaur books and DVDs that CMI offers. These resources will help you to stand firm in your faith and be ready to declare the true message of these ‘Prehistoric Preachers’!
(If you’re in the UK, check our Prehistoric Preachers Dinosaur Roadshow events which are designed to communicate the truth about dinosaurs in a way that the whole family can understand and enjoy).
References and notes
- That is, c omputer-g enerated i magery, or ‘special effects’. Return to text.
- Rojas, A., Character designer and paleontologist talk about Walking with Dinosaurs, huffingtonpost.com, 19 February 2014; accessed 13 December 2016. Return to text.
- Myers, J.A., Dinosaurs—Atheism’s gateway drug, meaningwithoutgodproject.blogspot.co.uk, 10 December 2010; accessed 13 December 2016. Return to text.
- Holland, T., Why I was wrong about Christianity, newstatesman.com, 14th September 2016; accessed 16 December 2016. Return to text.
- Richard Owen coined ‘Dinosauria’ in a presentation have gave to the 11th meeting of British Association of the Advancement of Science, August 1841. This was later mentioned on p. 103 of the following B.A.A.S. publication: Report on the British Fossil Reptiles, Part II, 1842, p. 60-204. Return to text.
Good article. It would be even better if it also mentioned that fact that every single dinosaur remain ever dated showed measurable Carbon 14 content, proving that no dinosaur can be over 50,000 years old!!
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A note has been added (and link to further reading) to the penultimate main paragraph to amend that oversight regarding the identification of radiocarbon in dinosaur remains.
I just love how the 1st illustration alludes to the 1st Jurassic Park movie! Big kudos to Matt Pomeroy!
It saddens me whenever I hear or see someone who has rejected a literal view of Genesis just because they think dinosaurs don't complement the Bible. Quite the contrary! As a creationist, I can't help but see not only how dinosaurs affirm scripture, but their tails almost literally slap evolution and millions of years in the face. I wish more parents would teach their kids how to look at dinosaurs from a biblical worldview when they're young so that when they grow older they aren't swept away by poorly-thought-through and evidence-lacking evolutionary arguments.
Here is another area where false historical science really steals from our culture. Dragons or 'dinosaurs' were definitely contemporaries with ancient humans. Just like the flood account, nearly all cultures have legends of dragons. Instead of appreciating these creatures and even what they might have helped ancient humans accomplish, they are only ever represented in a 'prehistoric' world with bubbling swamps. It steals the wonderful reality of these creatures and replaces it with a complete fabrication. Even as a creationist, I have to alter my thinking on these creatures because the first image that pops into my head is a bubbling swamp. Evolutionist have realized the power of imagery, that is for sure, from constructing whole models from a few bones to making a completely fabricated pre-historic world of dinosaurs. I am glad there are resources from creation ministries that counter this, but this is definitely an area where creation materials are still lacking. We don't have the money or resources that Hollywood throws at this fabrication. So we'll just have to paint the picture ourselves for our children.