Dinosaur Train and Reality

Dinosaur Train and Reality
I have been blessed over the past year with a two-year-old who calls me “Booh” which is Thai for “Grandpa.” It has been a wonderful experience for me in several ways. One of the things I have learned as he has grown older and watches children’s television is how much bad good and bad information children are exposed to in their preschool years. My adopted grandson’s favorite television program is a PBS Kids series called Dinosaur Train.

The program opens with a small pair of creatures that look like pterodactyls standing by a nest containing four eggs. The eggs hatch and the first three hatchlings look like their parents, complete with the ability to fly. The fourth egg hatches a few seconds later with a baby who looks nothing like the parents and who says, “What am I doing in a flying reptile nest?” The mother dinosaur picks up the baby, and the whole family flies to a train station called the Dinosaur Train.

On the train, a conductor takes the family on a trip to different geologic time periods–Mesozoic, Cenozoic, Paleozoic, Triassic, etc. There the family meets dinosaurs from the various time periods who explain what they eat and how they find their food. The train has a cattle car with large dinosaurs in it, and the family goes to a coach containing smaller dinosaurs.

Occasionally a scientist identified as a paleontologist presents a mini-lecture. The lecture may be on the meaning of words, the current evolutionary beliefs about the animals, or the geological processes that shaped the history of the Earth. His presentations are generally accurate, and he attempts to give the viewers a vocabulary that would be the envy of most college freshmen. Sound effects are very entertaining, and the program stays away from blood and gore and tends to focus on herbivores.

There are lots of concerns that parents may have about the current geologic and evolutionary beliefs that are presented as facts. I am concerned about the anthropomorphism of the dinosaurs. The train is a mid-twentieth century coal-burning steam engine and the train station is from the same time period. The conductor is a dinosaur wearing an outfit that looks like a circus barker. He not only calls the “All aboard,” but he gives Powerpoint-style explanations. The dinosaurs all speak perfect English and behave as humans. Everyone is friendly, T-Rex speaks kindly with everyone, and groups of dinosaurs sing Broadway-style tunes. Dinosaur Train is quite frankly very entertaining.

The problem I have is that the dinosaurs are essentially humans, engaging in human contests, doing human things, and having human relationships. Mom and dad have human roles and enjoy human activities like picnics and visits to different climates and places of recreational value. It is no wonder that those who tell children that humans and dinosaurs lived together find a ready audience of young people. I have hunter friends who dislike the story of Bambi because it vilifies hunters and fails to present children with the importance of balance in nature and the role that carnivores like ourselves serve. The same difficulty is present when people don’t understand the role that dinosaurs had in preparing the Earth for humans by supporting the ecology that produced the resources we need to survive on this planet.

Dinosaur Train is interesting and creative, but parents need to take time to give more accurate and realistic teaching to their toddlers as they get old enough to understand. There is no problem in explaining the role of dinosaurs if we understand how God designed and planned for humans from before time began.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Tyrannosaurus Rex, the Vulture

Tyrannosaurus Rex
We tend to view Tyrannosaurus rex as a 20-foot tall flesh eater who ran down its prey. Some have called this dinosaur “the most efficient carnivore who ever lived.” Science fiction movies like Jurassic Park have probably been the main source of this image, but the fact is that T. rex was nowhere near that fast.

Past studies of T. rex suggested that its huge mass–in the vicinity of nine tons–prevented it from running down much of anything. The muscle strength needed to accelerate that mass is simply not available to any form of life. Now simulations of acceleration and bone strength have verified that understanding. A speed of about 12 mph would have been the top limit for T. Rex and for only a short distance. That means a human could easily outrun a T. rex.

Tyrannosaurus rex was probably more of a scavenger than a hunter. There were other slow-moving dinosaurs such as Edmontosaurus, Triceratops, and Ankylosaurus that T. rex might have been able to catch. It is more likely that the T. rex population were the vultures of their day, not the lions of their day.

God created dinosaurs for a purpose, and every year we understand more about how they helped sustain the ecosystem that produced many of the resources we need. Every little boy seems to be fascinated with the media presentations of these creatures, but they really were not that glamorous.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

The Dinosaur Demise

Tarbosaurus Dinosaur
Everyone seems to have a fascination with dinosaurs. For kids, it may just be the old “monster under the bed” type of obsession, but adults have similar desires flavored by wanting to know more. Trying to suggest that dinosaurs and humans lived at the same time, as some creationists do, stretches credibility to the breaking point. Not only is there no credible evidence that humans and dinosaurs lived together (although the number of attempts never seems to diminish), but the conditions under which the dinosaurs lived would be virtually impossible for humans to survive. Temperatures, the composition of the atmosphere, and the efficiency of the dinosaur predators make most people at least doubt the cohabitation of humans and these huge reptiles. Movies like Jurassic Park help reinforce the difficulties of such a co-existence.

We have suggested that taking the Bible in a very literal way eliminates the need for trying to make a T. Rex a household pet. The Hebrew words used in the creation week all refer, if they are taken literally, to animals that Moses knew and/or had control over. Behemah in Genesis 1:24 refers to a cow, not a T. Rex. Kanaph oph in verse 21 refers to a chicken, not a pterodactyl. The creation week is an explanation to the Israelites about God’s creation of the living things they knew and depended on. Duckbilled Platypus is not in the creation week, nor are phytoplankton, bacteria, viruses, penguins, worms, arthropods in general, or dinosaurs. References to living things in passages like Exodus 20:11 are referring back to the creation week in the choice of words and the purpose.

Genesis 1:1 talks about the miraculous creation of the universe and the Earth in particular. The word for Earth (erets) normally refers to a functional planet–not a blob of gook. The method God used to produce the Earth is not given. Proverbs 8:22 discusses this in some references to God’s wisdom and planning, but not the mechanics of how God did what He did. The use of living ecosystems to produce a functional Earth is not out of the question, and the evidence shows that this is how God did it. Dinosaurs were the gardeners of prehistoric Earth, with some dinosaurs pruning and spreading the seeds of plants that produced coal and other resources humans would need.

In verse two of Genesis 1, we are told that the Earth became empty and wasted and that darkness came on the face of the Earth. The Hebrew tohu bohu choshek is normally used to address a destructive change. If in fact, biological systems were preparing the Earth for humans in verse 1, then verse 2 indicates a change. The evidence strongly supports this understanding. In Science News for February 4, 2017, pages 16-26, there is an excellent article by Thomas Sumner reporting on new research into the demise of the dinosaurs. It is titled “Devastation Detectives, ” and it reports on new data that backs up the asteroid impact that made the Chicxulub crater in the Yucatan. It also shows that in addition to the asteroid strike, massive volcanic eruptions were taking place on the opposite side of the planet that contributed to the renovation of the Earth. The evidence is that the destruction was complete. Fish have been found with their gills filled with silicon dust, and the atmosphere seems to have been so full of ash and materials from these catastrophes that the Earth was in darkness. The congruence of all this and the biblical account is too complete to ignore.

I am aware that our critics will say that we are just fitting science to the Bible or vice-versa. We would plead guilty to that charge. Science is facts, and if we believe that the Bible came from the Creator of the universe, then the facts must fit the Bible. If they don’t fit, we either have misunderstood the facts of science, or we have misunderstood the Bible. When God says something, we should not question it. When God just says He did it, we are free to look at the evidence and try to understand how. That is what science is about, and it leads to a better way of living for all of us. The way the new data fits Genesis 1:1-2 is too complete to ignore. Genesis is not a myth, but it is also not complete. There are many things we would like to know more about, and the role of the dinosaurs is certainly one of those things. For more on the Hebrew of Genesis, go to our doesgodexist.org website and read “God’s Revelation Through His Rocks and His Word.”
–John N. Clayton © 2017