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‘Walking with Beasts’–Virtually Fact Free

by , CMI-UK/Europe

Published: 3 February 2006 (GMT+10)

‘Walking With Beasts’ (hereafter, ‘Beasts’) is the £7 million sequel to the hugely popular ‘Walking with Dinosaurs’.1 Co-produced by BBC Television (UK) and Discovery Channel, this is the latest propaganda vehicle for indoctrinating young minds with an evolutionary view of origins. As with ‘Walking with dinosaurs’, ‘Beasts’ is packed full with ‘How do they know that?’-facts. But how much of what is depicted is based on concrete evidence? What are Bible-believing Christians to make of it all?

Within the conventional, long-ages view of Earth history, the series takes viewers from the period of time following the dinosaurs’ demise (some 65 million years ago), right through to the ‘appearance’ of modern humans. Each thirty-minute programme is told as the story of half a dozen ‘prehistoric’ animal species alive at the time. For instance, New Dawn describes 24 hours in the life of several creatures living in the middle Eocene,2 in what is now Germany.

A Biblical perspective

Starting from Scripture (God’s infallible Word) helps us go a long way towards separating fact from fiction in ‘Beasts’. For a start, there is no such thing as prehistory; i.e. long ages of time before human beings existed. The Bible explicitly states that God created the entire universe ‘in six days’ (Exodus 20:11),3 and Jesus Himself taught that people existed ‘at the beginning’ (Matthew 19:4). Furthermore, Exodus 20:11 states that the creation of ‘everything in’ the Earth and the sea was also completed within this week of God’s creative activity. These verses demolish the ideas of ‘millions of years’ of Earth history before man arrived on the scene. The fossil record, on which the creature-reconstructions in ‘Beasts’ is based, is not a record of life, but of death. The Bible clearly teaches that death entered a perfect Creation as the direct result of Adam’s sin (Genesis 2:16,17; 3:17; Romans 5:12; 1 Corinthians 15:21,22). On the other hand, death is a vital part of the alleged evolutionary process that has led to the production of new kinds of creatures, and ultimately mankind.4

Genesis 1 tells us exactly when God created the various animals: sea creatures and birds on Day five and land animals and humans on Day six. This includes all the creatures depicted in ‘Beasts’ as well as the dinosaurs that featured in the first series. Since all living creatures were created ‘according to their kind’ (Genesis 1:21,24,25), it is clear that God placed limits on the possible variation (range of forms) we see. The most up-to-date findings of biological science support this Biblical view of life. Research in the fields of genetics and molecular biology provide absolutely no support for Darwin’s idea, that the observable small changes in living things (e.g. variation in breeds of cattle or horses) can lead to the big changes required by evolution (e.g. land mammal to whale, or ape to human). Far from it, the facts of science are fatal to all such theories.5

Separating Fact from Fiction

Despite the admittedly stunning special effects, much of the content is based on the flimsiest of evidence. This does not just apply to the beasts’ behaviours, about which the bones tell us next to nothing.6 In some cases, the reconstructions belie the fragmentary nature of the fossils on which they are supposedly based. In fact, ‘Beasts’ is really just a thinly-disguised denial of the plain teaching about origins in the Biblical book of Genesis. Scanty facts permit a great deal of ‘reading between the lines’. However, while wild speculation might be the perfect fuel for imaginative story-telling, allowing it to masquerade as ‘science’ is highly misleading and frankly inexcusable.

One reviewer has said:

‘[Viewers] may wonder how accurately the scenes they are watching depict what really happened.  Given that some palaeontologists griped that Walking With Dinosaurs presented conjecture as incontrovertible fact, did the film-makers change their approach in this follow-up series?  "Our position is very much the same as last time," says James.  It is speculation, but it is very, very informed speculation.  We bend over backwards to make sure our speculation is as good as it can be.’7

Ultimately, the creatures that parade our screens on ‘Beasts’ are the programme-makers’ best guesses, based on a combination of fossil bones,8 experts’ opinions,9 and the skill and imagination of the computer graphics and animatronics technicians.

A major aim of ‘Beasts’ was to tell the (evolutionary) story of where today’s animals came from: What’s the history of an elephant? What’s the history of a horse? What did they start out as?’10 Not surprisingly, it is at this point that facts disappear altogether and we move into the realm of fantasy. The sort of claims that are made would not be out of place in Grimm’s Fairy Tales and all have been thoroughly debunked by creationists, based on the facts (rather than the interpretations placed on them by some evolutionists). A few examples will suffice:

  • Ambulocetus—the name literally means ‘walking whale’. Portrayed on ‘Beasts’ as a 3 metre long ambush predator:
    ‘You are looking at the very earliest form of whale…With another 10 million years of evolution, the limbs will become flippers and the tail will become a fluke. His style of swimming already has the look of a whale or a dolphin. His body moves up and down, and not side to side like the fishes or crocodiles he shares the water with. He is the most powerful predator in this lake… Although he has no ears, he listens for approaching prey by putting his jaw to the ground and detecting vibrations. It is the same mechanism that allows him to hear under water.’11

    The facts: see Great transformations and A whale of a tale?.

  • Basilosaurus—the name literally means ‘king lizard’. The claims:

    ‘…eighty metres of predatory whale, four times the length of the Great White shark. This female weighs sixty tonnes. Incredible to think then, their ancestors were tiny, furry, shrew-like animals that lived in trees.’12

    The facts: see Great transformations and The strange tale of the leg on the whale.

  • Propalaeotherium—allegedly an early form of horse:

    ‘This is how horses started out: small, forest-dwelling animals. At this stage they are not much bigger than cats and have yet to even develop hooves, having instead, four, hoof-like toes.’13

    The facts: see The non-evolution of the horse.

  • Moeriatherium—an amphibious mammal, weighing 200kg and shaped like a hippo, but not related to it. Lacks the familiar trunk and tusks of elephants but allegedly a side-branch in the evolutionary line produced them:

    ‘…the Moeritherium’s nose betrays its true family connections. The nostril and lip have joined together to become one, dexterous, muscular unit which helps them forage for food. This is, in fact, a type of trunk. These benign herbivores are early relatives of the elephant.’14

    The facts: The Encyclopedia Britannica indicates that there are no actual fossils of the alleged evolutionary ancestors of elephants (order Proboscidea), which supposedly evolved from pig-sized ancestors.15 African and Asian elephants, probably also the extinct Mammoth,16 all belong to the same created kind.

  • Australopithecus afarensis—the website fact-file17 claims that humans are the closest living relative of this diminutive ape-like creature (males were 1.5m tall; females were 1–1.2 m tall).

    ‘Although we don’t know if it was a direct human ancestor, Australopithecus was certainly closely related to the animals we are descended from.’

    The facts: Many evolutionists have long rejected the notion of these creatures (including the famous ‘Lucy’) being ancestors of modern humans. See: New evidence: Lucy was a knuckle-walker. Other recent finds of apes that were contemporary with Lucy only add to the evolutionists’ difficulties in trying to reconstruct human origins, e.g. Time’s alleged ‘ape-man’ trips up (again)!

Like a Yoghurt

Yoghurts, as we all know are often part of a dieter’s menu, specifically the kind that are very reduced in fat content. One can consume a large pot of such yoghurt without fear of gaining too many calories. Just as the energy value of a low-fat yoghurt is negligible, so too is the fact content of ‘Beasts’. Consumers of ‘Walking with Beasts’ will find that it, like many yoghurts, is ‘Virtually Fact Free!’ For something with more substance we recommend the many resources (books, videos etc.) available from CMI. Why not take out a subscription to Creation magazine (above): 56 pages of God-honouring, faith-building articles for all the family. Not for those on a low fact diet!

Notes and References

  1. See Walking with…untruths! Return to text.
  2. Around 49 million years ago according to the conventional, uniformitarian time-scale. Return to text.
  3. Batten, D., Catchpoole, D., Sarfati, J., and Wieland, C., Six days? Really? (Chapter 2, Creation Answers Book). Return to text.
  4. In this context, see: Ham, K., The god of an old earth. Return to text.
  5. Two pertinent books that illustrate this point are: Behe, M.J., Darwin’s Black Box: The biochemical challenge to evolution, The Free Press, Simon & Schuster Inc., New York, 1996. Spetner, L., Not by chance! Shattering the modern theory of evolution, The Judaica Press, Inc., New York, 1998. Return to text.
  6. Their behaviour is based on that of living creatures that are thought to be their closest relatives. Return to text.
  7. Davies, T., 16 million years AD (After dinosaurs), Radio Times, 10–16 November, p. 39, 2001. Jasper James is the series producer of Walking With Beasts. Return to text.
  8. Parts of an animal’s soft anatomy are only very rarely preserved. Return to text.
  9. According to Davies, T., Working with beasts, Radio Times, 17–23 November, p. 34, 2001: ‘The drive for reality—or rather, informed scientific speculation—began with researchers Dr Alexandra Freeman (a zoologist with a doctorate on animal behaviour in evolution) and Dr Paul Chambers (a geology graduate whose doctorate is in palaeontology) quizzing more than 400 of the world’s scientists.’Return to text.
  10. Quote from the series producer, Jasper James, in: Davies, T., 16 million years AD (After dinosaurs), Radio Times, 10–16 November, p. 40, 2001. Return to text.
  11. From the first programme, New Dawn. Return to text.
  12. From the second programme, Whale Killer. Return to text.
  13. From the first programme, New Dawn. Return to text.
  14. From the second programme, Whale Killer. Return to text.
  15. ‘Mammals’, The New Encyclopaedia Britannica 23:339—459, 15th Edition, 1992. Return to text.
  16. Sarfati, J., Mammoth— Riddle of the Ice Age. Return to text.
  17. http://www.bbc.co.uk/beasts/factfiles/australopithecus.shtml, last accessed 27 November, 2001. Return to text.