Many professors at private religious universities cling to secular views of the past despite the clear anti-Christian consequences. Theological inferences from a recent study on dinosaur extinction illustrate this dilemma.
Publishing in the journal Biological Reviews, Baylor geologist Dr. Daniel Peppe contributed to an international effort that reviewed trends among dinosaurs leading up to their extinction. Certain rock layers supposedly recorded the extinction event.1 The team concluded that although an impact likely killed the dinosaurs off, it could not have done so if the beasts had not been facing an array of other difficulties.2
Peppe told Baylor’s news, “Our findings suggest that other factors such as sea level, changes in temperature and lack of species diversity made dinosaurs susceptible to extinction, but were not the cause. The asteroid strike ultimately decimated the dinosaur population and caused their extinction.”3
The group seems confident that they helped answer the long-debated question of what caused dinosaur extinction, but their answer leaves key scientific questions dangling. For example, why would these supposed environmental upheavals culminating in an asteroid strike fail to kill off more environmentally sensitive animals like frogs, salamanders, turtles, and certain plants that all look the same today as their fossils? Why would the supposed impact selectively eradicate the large, thick-skinned dinosaurs instead?
Additionally, those who advocate the impact theory of extinction did not include secular reports of dinosaur fossils found above the supposed extinction layer.4,5 Other secular geologists have marshalled evidence that extinction layers do not correspond to the layer holding the supposed impact debris, and some researchers assert that it’s not just one impact layer, but dozens that have been misinterpreted as just one.6 The Biological Reviews study raises theological questions, too.
For instance, the report affirmed that “dinosaurs went extinct 66 million years ago,” agreeing with a secular perspective that sees mankind evolving more than 60 million years after the supposed extinction.1 If dinosaurs really went extinct at that time, then their many fossils demonstrate that death was occurring—in spades—long before the advent of sin. In that scenario, how could death be considered the just consequence of sinful behavior?7 Did Paul fail to understand that death entered the world long before sin?8
According to Genesis—the foundational book of the Bible and thus of Christianity—God’s original creation experienced no death, and this separation of spirit from body only began after Adam and Eve committed the first sin. God even warned the first couple that they would die if they sinned. Did God fail to understand that death had already been occurring for millions of years—or was He lying?9
What could be more Christian than the gospel, which presents God’s offer of eternal life to dying sinners through the substitutionary death and resurrection of Jesus Christ? But if dinosaurs died 66 million years ago, then death has been part of the world all along instead of entering in as sin’s consequence. Did Jesus die and rise from the dead for nothing?10
A theologically and scientifically superior alternative considers dinosaur fossils and their rock layers as water deposits from Noah’s year-long, globe-covering Flood. No wonder these geologists reported evidence of changing temperatures and sea levels, even as others describe dinosaur graveyards where the bones are entombed in mud from watery mass die-offs. Similarly, how could dinosaurs have gone extinct millions of years ago if one of them was described in Job 40 by a witness who lived only thousands of years ago?
Knowingly or not, when Christians accept secular perspectives, they run two significant risks. First, they risk bad science, ignoring observations that break the secular mold the way Dr. Peppe and his colleagues failed to mention the lack of frog, salamander, and turtle extinction with their impact story. Also, they risk propagating ideas that undermine Christianity—like how millions of years of death undermine the gospel.
- Strictly speaking, fossils do not record extinctions, but merely the last known occurrences in rock layers. Notable examples including lobe-finned fish and lung fish fossils have their last known occurrences in rock layers assigned ages of 66 and 360 million years ago, yet they live today unchanged.
- Brusatte, S. L. et al. The extinction of the dinosaurs. Biological Reviews. Published online July 28, 2014, accessed August 2, 2014.
- Lewis, T. Dinosaurs Fell Victim to Perfect Storm of Events, Study Shows. Baylor news. Posted on baylor.edu July 28, 2014, accessed August 3, 2014.
- DeYoung, D. B. 2001. Chicxulub and the Demise of the Dinosaurs. Acts & Facts. 30 (4).
- Thomas, B. Case Closed on Dinosaur Extinction. Or Is It? Creation Science Update. Posted on icr.org March 15, 2010, accessed August 5, 2014.
- Thomas, B. Rewriting the Last Dinosaur’s Tombstone. Creation Science Update. Posted on icr.org May 11, 2009, accessed August 5, 2014.
- “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
- “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12).
- “And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:16-17).
- “For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God” (Romans 6:10).
* Mr. Thomas is Science Writer at the Institute for Creation Research.
Article posted on August 11, 2014.