Item #6: My March, 2002, response to Mr. Knapp’s dinosaur commentary -

While perusing your evolution/creation website recently, I noticed that you had presented some lines of evidence which were intended to refute Dr. John Ivy’s contention that dinosaurs and humans did not live contemporaneously. While it is not my intention to defend Dr. Ivy’s religious beliefs, I would like to comment on the significance and reliability of the evidence that you offered in rebuttal.

You argue that the description of the "behemoth" in Job 40 fits that of a dinosaur, and thus provides evidence that humans and dinosaurs coexisted in biblical times. Particular emphasis is placed on verse 17 that describes the beast’s "tail" as being like a "cedar". Like many creationists, you contend that such a tree-like tail could only belong to a very large animal such as a Diplodocus. You appear to be unaware that many Hebrew scholars have long asserted that the "tail" in this verse was merely a euphemism for the male genital organ. According to "John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible" (available on the Internet), "tail" in this verse is interpreted as "penis" by the Targum in the King’s Bible, and Cicero confirms that ancients used to refer to the penis as the "tail". This interpretation is lent further credence by that fact that discussion of this organ is followed by a description of the beast’s "stones" which the Targums equate with the testicles. That being the case, it is reasonable to assume that the comparison of the "tail" with a tree was metaphorical and that it was intended to convey the impressive dimensions of this appendage. In accordance with these interpretations, this passage is rendered by translator Stephen Mitchell to read, "Behold now the Beast…His penis stiffens like a pine; his testicles bulge with vigor."

Strong’s concordance depicts Job’s Behemoth as being a hippopotamus. Apparently he was a rather well-endowed one. Nonetheless, whether Job 40:17 is referring to a hippopotamus, an elephant, an ox, or some other large vegetation-eating mammal, it is reasonable to assume the author most assuredly did not have dinosaurs in mind when he formulated this metaphorical description. It is reasonable to make such an assumption because dinosaurs had been extinct for over 60 million years and people at the time didn’t have a clue as to their prior existence.

You argue that further evidence for the existence of dinosaurs in biblical times is provided by the repeated references to dragons in the Bible. The LXX (Greek Septuagint translation of the Old Testament, produced in Egypt more than two thousand years ago) translated the Hebrew words meaning "snake" with drakon. That was correct since the old Greek word drakon meant a snake. Unfortunately, when this word was incorporated into the Latin Catholic Vulgate, it was not properly translated as "snake" but was retained in the Greek form "dracon" from which derives our "dragon". When the KJV was being translated, most people believed in the existence of dragons (some fire-breathing and some with multiple heads). The literature of the day contained many references to dragons and similar imaginary creatures that people thought actually existed at the time. (The same way that many people today fixate on space aliens.) The KJV, therefore, also incorporated references to these mythical beasts. Thus the "dragons" in the Bible are not the fearsome beasts spawned by myth and folk tales that have been used to denote dinosaurs. Quite often the term is used metaphorically to refer to pagan governments. Properly translated, in most cases they make reference to snakes or serpents which have nothing whatsoever to do with the coexistence of man and dinosaurs at any time in the past.

One of the Answers in Genesis articles to which you referred your readers was entitled, "Sensational dinosaur blood report". According to this article, Dr. Mary Schweitzer working in Dr. John Horner’s research group at Montana State University uncovered "…actual red blood cells in fossil bones from T. rex. With traces of the blood protein hemoglobin." This evidence led the authors to conclude that the discovery "…casts immense doubt upon the ‘millions of years’ idea".

Having developed a healthy skepticism towards the "sensational" discoveries that are periodically trumpeted by the AIG apologists, I contacted Dr. Horner directly to ask him about these claims. He informed me that actual red blood cells had most certainly not been detected in his specimens. He wrote, "What we found was heme, a form of iron that has a biological origin, but of course, not any soft tissue or any other component of a cell. It’s preserved because it’s iron."

I also received a reply from Dr. Schweitzer regarding the positive immunological response observed in studies in which extracts of dinosaur fossil were injected into rats. According to the AIG site, this response represents compelling evidence that the dinosaur specimens could not be millions of years old. However, as elaborated on by Dr. Schweitzer, "Now, heme is different than protein, and is a very tiny and very durable molecule…" (It is not unexpected, therefore, that it would remain intact in million-year-old dinosaur fossils.) "But the heme itself is too small to be immunogenic. We believe that there were possibly 3-4 amino acids from the original protein [which consisted of many hundreds of amino acids] attached to the heme, and that was what may have spiked the immune response." While the preservation of protein residue is unusual in most fossils, it does sometime occur under special circumstances. As Dr. Schweitzer explains, "It depends on the protein examined, and more importantly, on the diagenetic [mineralizing] conditions of the entombing environment. In this case, we are just beginning to understand why regions of the T. rex. exhibited such exceptional preservation. And not all of the bones did, only regions of some of them."

So there you have it from the horses’ mouths, so to speak. Contrary to the "sensational" claims of the AIG article, no "actual red blood cells" were found. Only fragmentary remnants of heme iron to which were attached a few residual amino acids were all that were detected. In the case of the immunological response, the indications are that it resulted from the sporadic existence of pockets of extensively degraded protein, not intact hemoglobin as the AIG article implies. While somewhat unexpected, this response in no way calls into question the ancient vintage of these specimens. As Dr. Schweitzer noted, the special conditions under which partial preservation can sometimes occur are the subject of current research. What evidence do the creationists have that some limited form of preservation of protein fragments cannot occur under all environmental conditions? If they can offer no such evidence, then their self-serving pronouncements about the age of these fossils is only so much wishful thinking.

The other AIG article to which you refer your readers is entitled, "Interview with Buddy Davis". Mr. Davis, who appears to have no formal training as a paleontologist, claims that "The Liscomb Bone Bed has probably thousands of frozen unfossilized dinosaur bones – some of them have the ligaments still attached." Mr. Davis says that he collected some of these specimens and that this discovery "…places dinosaurs well within the time of man." Does it really? I don’t know of any reputable paleontologist who would think so.

First, one might ask if Mr. Davis is actually messing with dinosaur bones. There is the possibility that what he is dealing with are mastodon and/or mammoth bones which would be expected to be rather widely distributed in the upper strata in that area. Has any qualified paleontologist with expertise in dinosaur classification been allowed to examine Davis’ specimens? If not, how can he be certain that they are dinosaur bones?

Second, even if the bones are of dinosaurian origin, the fact that they may appear to be "unfossilized" does not mean that they are of recent age. According to Dr. Horner in personal communication to me, "As for unfossilized remains, it depends on your definition of fossilized. Most dinosaur bone is not petrified. Petrification is the complete replacement of the original bone, and this is actually very rare. Permineralization is the filling of open spaces in bone, which means that the original bone is still there……bone is composed of calcium phosphate which, being a mineral, is generally pretty stable. If a bone was buried rapidly, and didn’t have an opportunity to have water deposit minerals within its spaces, then it would appear to be ‘unfossilized’ but actually all the bones examined like this have undergone some kind of replacement…..many of my studies include microscopic examination of bone that has been only partially replaced." Therefore, unless Davis’ purported dinosaur bones are examined by an expert, his claims that they are "unfossilized" are nothing but wild speculation.

Not unexpectedly, the AIG has again been caught misrepresenting the results of scientific studies and exaggerating their impact to bolster its anti-evolution agenda. But that is actually of little concern to them since they are primarily focused on preaching to the choir. They know they can count on you and your fellow creationists to reflexively swallow whatever they dish out without ever giving it a second thought. Nonetheless, instead of casting immense doubt on the "millions of years" idea, what this deceptive reporting does is to cast serious doubt on the credibility and honesty of the propagandists working for the AIG.

If humans and dinosaurs actually coexisted, some of the crucial questions that creationists must answer are: Why are human bones and human artifacts NEVER found buried together with dinosaur remains anywhere on earth? Why are dinosaur bones NEVER found buried anywhere on earth in upper strata, but only in much deeper strata that is more than about 65 million years old? Why are dinosaur bones NEVER found buried anywhere on earth together with large mammals that have lived contemporaneously with man such as elephants, whales, bears, tigers, oxen, hippopotami, rhinoceroses, moose, etc.? And why, even if for the sake of argument one assumes that Job’s Behemoth was a large dinosaur, would the Bible be virtually silent regarding the enormous variety of beasts that would have had such a profound impact on people’s daily lives? It is difficult to imagine how people could have lived in the presence of the type of vicious flesh-eating dinosaurs that are known to have hunted in what is now the Middle East without the scribes documenting dinosaur encounters on a frequent basis.

Until creationists proffer reasonable answers to these questions, their man/dinosaur connection can justifiably be shrugged off as just another one of the faith-based myths that they must buy into in order to cling to their literal interpretation of the Bible.

Jack DeBaun

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Updated: 1/28/04