We thought we’d try something a little different in this week’s response to feedback. Usually, we select one negative feedback to answer, always looking for an emailer who asks a valid question rather than someone just unloading unsubstantiated claims. Recently, we received two relatively similar emails asking about our contention (or the Bible’s contention, as we argue) that dinosaurs and humans lived at the same time. Both authors write as Christians, so we thought this would be a good opportunity to address the question once again and touch on some of the issues it relates to.

But first, the two letters, side-by-side for your reading convenience. The one on the left is unedited, as usual; we shortened the one on the right (with the superfluous extractions noted) so that the two would match up better.

S.T. (Rockport, Texas) writes: L.B. (false location given) writes:
Im a devout Christian, but I dispute your belief that man and dinosaurs lived side by side.
I've read the article written by Ken Ham on Dinosaurs and the Bible. I want you to clearly understand that I am a devout Christian. But I find myself ashamed that such trivial nonsense can be published in any forum. [. . .]1
For example, one of Dr. David Menton's articles claims birds did not evolve from dinosaurs because God created the birds on Day 5 and didn't create man and the land animals, which included dinosaurs, until Day 6.
This premise has many flaws.
First of all, not all the dinosaurs were land animals. Second, the only evidence that dinosaurs have lived during the same era as humans comes from unproven sightings of the Loch Ness Monster and similar creatures.
Many fossil dating techniques show which creatures lived side by side -- carbon dating; fossils found in soil stratifications that mark the eras; unrelated fossil creatures discovered in the same location; and tools, spears, etc. found alongside animal bones.
Under When Did Dinosaurs Live... he quotes the text book correctly that dinosaurs were around for 140 million years and dying out about 65 million years ago, but then states that scientists do not dig up anything labeled with those ages.
Mr. Ham... have you ever heard of carbon 14 dating? Or is that little detail one you just chose to ignore? Not only can the bones themselves be dated but the rock and strata that the bones are found in can be dated as well. [. . .]2
Now you start to intertwine the Bible in the most perverted way I've ever seen a christen do. You cannot be so absolutely literal in your interpretations of the book of Genesis. The earth was created about 4 BILLION years ago. This is an indisputable proven fact. So your assumption that the earth was created only 6000 years ago is sadly wrong and misleading. [. . .]3
Believing in the Creation is one thing, but you are disregarding the evidence, rather than reconciling the scriptures with the known facts.
[. . .]4 Science can only strengthen our faith in God and in the wonders of the universe that God has laid before us. God has given us the ability to learn and to be curious and most of all the desire to seek out the truth. We can't just duck our heads into the sand and say "Oh this never happened because it's not in the bible." In any new discovery we can rejoice in the Glory and Wisdom of God and know that our Faith isn't threatened. Where I ask Mr. Ham, is YOUR faith?

First and foremost, we thank both readers for their emails. We are committed to cordial, careful discussion of the issues. Our ministry is not about “beating people over the head” with the Bible, but rather about giving answers for the hope that we have (1 Peter 3:15) and defending God’s Word from compromise. Honestly asked questions, rather than vitriolic rants, help fuel constructive conversation about origins.

Love God, Love People!

Yesterday I spent some time on a website that was filled with people's responses to the movie “Expelled”. There were a lot of people much more intelligent than myself writing, including Richard Dawkins. However, one thing stood out so very clearly. These people were filled with so much anger and hatred, mostly toward Creationists. Although their comments often reflected brilliant minds, I was deeply saddened by their mockery & total rejection of anything to do with God. I know that some creationists can be insensitive in their remarks about evolutionists at times, but it was so refreshing to come back to your website and sense LOVE! Love for God, and love for people! I know we don't have all the answers, but I am so proud that you are pursuing scientific understanding as you seek to “Love the Lord thy God with all your heart, and your neighbors as yourself!”

—P.J. & C.J., North Dakota

What about you?

Let us know how AiG has impacted your life.

We are also committed to defending the Bible from the very first verse and using the Bible as our axiom for determining truth. Squarely put, our view is, if it’s what the Bible says, it’s true; if it goes against what the Bible says, it’s false (or at best misconstrued, due to erroneous presuppositions).5

Thus, as Bible-believing Christians, we are devoted and have immense respect for the Word of God, not allowing any other ideas to dilute or adulterate the Bible. We don’t consider the idea that man and dinosaurs coexisted a few thousand years ago (or even more recently) our belief; rather, the Bible plainly presents this view, and one can only escape the view by twisting God’s plain words and by placing secular science on a higher pedestal than Scripture.

Im a devout Christian, but I dispute your belief that man and dinosaurs lived side by side.
I've read the article written by Ken Ham on Dinosaurs and the Bible. I want you to clearly understand that I am a devout Christian. But I find myself ashamed that such trivial nonsense can be published in any forum.

Both writers call themselves “devout Christians,” but we would ask if they are treating the Scriptures as Christ Himself did. Jesus treated Genesis as literal history, quoting authoritatively from its history as a foundation for morality (see Did Jesus say He created in six days?, Jesus Christ on the infallibility of Scripture, and But from the beginning of … the institution of marriage?).

Here, in short, is how we arrive at our conclusion that dinosaurs and man lived at the same time—starting with a straightforward reading of the Bible as the true, eyewitness account of history:

  1. Dinosaurs, being land animals, were created on Day 6 of Creation Week. (Genesis 1:24–25)
  2. Adam and Eve were created on Day 6 of Creation Week. (Genesis 1:26–30)
  3. Thus, dinosaurs and humans lived side by side.6 (Genesis 1:31)
For example, one of Dr. David Menton's articles claims birds did not evolve from dinosaurs because God created the birds on Day 5 and didn't create man and the land animals, which included dinosaurs, until Day 6.
This premise has many flaws.
First of all, not all the dinosaurs were land animals. Second, the only evidence that dinosaurs have lived during the same era as humans comes from unproven sightings of the Loch Ness Monster and similar creatures.
Many fossil dating techniques show which creatures lived side by side -- carbon dating; fossils found in soil stratifications that mark the eras; unrelated fossil creatures discovered in the same location; and tools, spears, etc. found alongside animal bones.
Under When Did Dinosaurs Live... he quotes the text book correctly that dinosaurs were around for 140 million years and dying out about 65 million years ago, but then states that scientists do not dig up anything labeled with those ages.
Mr. Ham... have you ever heard of carbon 14 dating? Or is that little detail one you just chose to ignore? Not only can the bones themselves be dated but the rock and strata that the bones are found in can be dated as well.
Now you start to intertwine the Bible in the most perverted way I've ever seen a christen do. You cannot be so absolutely literal in your interpretations of the book of Genesis. The earth was created about 4 BILLION years ago. This is an indisputable proven fact. So your assumption that the earth was created only 6000 years ago is sadly wrong and misleading.

Now we come to their sticking point: how can you accept what the Bible says in light of modern science? This stance is common in the church for several reasons:

  1. It began in the nineteenth century church when Christians allowed uniformitarian scientists to erode away the authority of Genesis 1 by arguing that plainly written “days” couldn’t be ordinary days, but must instead have been vast geological ages—the “day-age” theory—or that such ages occurred between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2—the so-called “gap” theory.
  2. Soon, all of Genesis 1–11 was revised as pre-scientific symbolism, with these “old-agers” apparently believing the Bible transforms from myth or symbolism to historical truth somewhere between Genesis 11:10 and Genesis 11:27.
  3. In more modern circles of Christianity, many of the most “unscientific” miracles of the Bible—from the fish that swallowed Jonah to even the fish Jesus used to feed thousands—are reinterpreted as symbolic, exaggerated, or both by those who believe allowing anything out of the ordinary in the Bible would be resisting “modern science.”

When it comes to dinosaurs and the Bible, this pattern applies. Christians have sadly accepted the “absolute facts” (actually interpretations of data) of secular scientists over God’s Word, such that behemoth “couldn’t have been” a dinosaur but must have instead been a hippopotamus, elephant, etc. But the absolute facts Christians should stick to are the verses of God’s Word, interpreting scientific findings through that framework, rather than adopting the unbeliever’s naturalistic presuppositions and interpreting God’s Word through man’s fallible ideas.

We also need to issue a clarification to S.T. First, dinosaurs were, in fact, land animals. Though pterosaurs and aquatic reptiles are sometimes lumped together with dinosaurs, they are all technically separate classifications of reptiles. Thus, while God made pterosaurs, ichthyosaurs, plesiosaurs, and mosasaurs on Day 5 of Creation Week (Genesis 1:20–23), we can confidently say that “dinosaurs” by the technical definition were made on Day 6. (Nevertheless, all “dinosaurs” by the casual definition would have been alive then, anyway.)

Now here’s the point, S.T.: the only “evidence” we need that dinosaurs and man lived together is Scripture—just as we would accept the Resurrection of Christ or creation ex nihilo without any independent “evidence.” (The root of this mistaken clamor over “evidence” is that people fail to recognize how their presuppositions actually shape how they interpret the evidence.) We who start from the Bible as our foundation accept the coexistence of humans and dinosaurs even before we ever consider the possibility that there was or is a Loch Ness Monster (for instance). (That said, we do believe that the many stories of “dragons” in cultures worldwide—stories that are eerily similar to what we know about dinosaurs—likely represent societal recollections of real human encounters with dinosaurs, perhaps as recently as a thousand years ago; the same goes for artistic depictions of dinosaurs hundreds of years before they were discovered—or, actually, “re-discovered”!)

Next, the carbon-14 dating that L.B. mentions might be one piece of evidence that we would have to interpret through our presuppositions. Some presuppose that the atmospheric production rate of carbon-14 has always been constant (though there’s no evidence for this), and then date certain items based on that presumption. We instead presuppose the age of the earth (based on the Bible) and, as a result, conclude carbon-14 production must have been different in the past. Note that the difference in views is not about the evidence, though; it’s about what one presupposes.

That said, we’ll note that L.B. apparently is hurtling criticism without really having done his research. Old-age scientists would never say that carbon-14 can date dinosaur bones or the rocks they’re found in, because carbon-14 dating can only give a reliable age of at most about 50,000 to 60,000 years (again, that’s assuming a constant atmospheric carbon-14 production rate), not the millions of years that are alleged to have passed between the downfall of dinosaurs and the present. Nonetheless, just as with carbon-14 dating, the radiometric dating methods secular scientists do use—even aside from giving wildly differing ages—are based on the uniformitarian presuppositions. Additionally, there are many other methods for dating the earth and a vast majority of them show a young age.

Believing in the Creation is one thing, but you are disregarding the evidence, rather than reconciling the scriptures with the known facts.
Science can only strengthen our faith in God and in the wonders of the universe that God has laid before us. God has given us the ability to learn and to be curious and most of all the desire to seek out the truth. We can't just duck our heads into the sand and say "Oh this never happened because it's not in the bible." In any new discovery we can rejoice in the Glory and Wisdom of God and know that our Faith isn't threatened. Where I ask Mr. Ham, is YOUR faith?

Both S.T. and L.B. are presenting inaccurate views of the relationship between Scripture and science.

Changing science

One common mistaken view is that science and Scripture (or religion in general) are in a tug-of-war; that only one can be right, and that the two are ultimately incompatible. This view is shared by atheists such as Richard Dawkins, who argues that science shows God to be a delusion, and by perhaps a few well-meaning Christians who feel that any science is a threat to religion (though these days it’s more a straw man than a reality, those who claim dinosaur fossils are deceptions planted by Satan would probably fall into this category).

The other common erroneous view, as apparently espoused by S.T. and L.B., is that science and Scripture are two independent fields that can be “reconciled” with one another neatly. Yet time and time again, we see exactly what this really means: whenever science and Scripture clash, the pressure is for Scripture to be reinterpreted, allegorized, etc.—not for the science to be revised.

In fact, “science” is not so much a set of ideas, but rather a method to obtain knowledge—a method that rests on certain foundational principles, such as universal logic, reliability of our senses, uniformity of nature, and so forth. The Bible explains a universe where those principles are valid; without the Bible (and, more importantly, the God of the Bible), there is no basis for science. Furthermore, there is no indisputable “evidence” that speaks for itself and needs no interpretation; rather, we interpret the raw facts of science through a worldview.

Thus, we agree with L.B. that science can certainly “strengthen our faith in God,” but only when we’re starting from the right worldview. Claiming that it takes “faith” to reconcile the Bible with unbiblically based interpretations of science (as unbiblical worldviews produce) is as ridiculous as suggesting a person has more faith if they simultaneously believe two plus two equals four and five! This is not the sort of faith that the Bible encourages—faith in spite of reason. It is actually unreasonable to have faith in a God who can seem contradictory to the reality He created. What nonsense is faith if it is invoked merely to bridge a gap between what we believe is truth and a contradictory reality.

Again and again, we come back to emphasizing the importance of starting with the Bible as the source and determiner of truth—not independent human reasoning, which is fallible and based on speculation and probability. Time and time again, when individuals try to cling “by faith” to the Bible while actually starting with independent human reason, the Bible is diluted and distorted as secular science and culture reshapes how we read it. Isn’t God’s Word worth more than that?

Peter Galling, AiG–U.S.

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Footnotes

  1. Redacted: “Mr. Ham has done more harm to our faith with one article than I could possibly imagine. He begins his article with a somewhat accurate if not simplistic view of what dinosaurs are, and throws in a few facts for credibility.” Back
  2. Redacted: “So here is your proof Mr. Ham... Carbon 14 dating.” Back
  3. Redacted: “The rest of your hypothesis is so insane that it doesnt even justify rebuttal.” Back
  4. Redacted: “Mr. Ham, the Bible was written by men inspired by God but still using terms that man of the time could understand. You simply can't take everything so literal and you can't just ignore science. Science itself is not an enemy of God. The Big Bang Theory does not contradict the book of Genesis. For God said "Let there be Light" and BOOM! There was light! And God had created the firmament. 9.7 Billion years later the earth is formed. Do you really think that time has any meaning to God? Genesis didn't say how God formed the world, it only states that he did. And if you really want to get down to it... God didn't even create time as man knows it until the 4th day.” Back
  5. Note that there are some things that the Bible does not explicitly say—such as that Abraham Lincoln was a U.S. president—that are nonetheless true; however, something that goes against what the Bible says cannot be true. Back
  6. Some say that Day 6 was metaphorical, lasting millions of years, and that dinosaurs thus “died out” in the middle of Day 6 and that humans were then “created” at perhaps 11:46 p.m. on Day 6. For numerous problems with this idea, see Get Answers: Creation Compromises and Why Shouldn’t Christians Accept Millions of Years? in particular. Back