"Answers" in Genesis' Inconsistencies in Endorsing Myths
Kevin R. Henke, Ph.D.
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In 1977, Japanese fishermen on the trawler Zuiyo-maru caught a partially decayed creature off the coast of New Zealand. Some individuals thought that the remains were those of a plesiosaur, a marine reptile that became extinct about 65 million years ago. To their credit, the young-Earth creationist (YEC) organization Answers in Genesis (AiG) now realizes that the 1977 Zuiyo-maru creature was an ordinary basking shark and not a plesiosaur (also see: Jerlstroem, 1998). However, AIG personnel and Jerlstroem (1998) are not the first YECs to abandon the Zuiyo-maru myth. Their fellow YEC Basil Overton (1981, p. 73-74) suspected that this creature was a basking shark more than 20 years ago.
While many YECs no longer believe in the Zuiyo-maru "plesiosaur", many of them still proclaim that dragon legends are "evidence" that dinosaurs exited from Noah's ark and survived into historical times. In particular, Alferov (2000) (also here) claims that On Dragons and Ghosts by John of Damascus (also known as St. John Damascene) (675-749 AD) is a reliable document that endorses the existence of living dinosaurs. Unconvincingly, Alferov (2000) struggles to portray John as a trustworthy witness and someone that supposedly would not be deceived by rumors and legends. As stated in the title, it would have been interesting if Alferov (2000) had discussed John of Damascus' beliefs on ghosts. Nevertheless, as Carl Sagan often said: "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." Clearly, old stories in dusty manuscripts are not reliable evidence. Although eyewitness testimony may be very important in solving crimes and interpreting other events, even modern eyewitness accounts may largely consist of contradictions, misinterpretations, and outright fabrications. To prove their case, YECs must find a living or largely intact corpse of a dinosaur.
Most YECs also recognize that the extinction of the dinosaurs is a problem for their theology. If Noah placed dinosaur specimens on the ark, why are they now extinct? If the dinosaurs failed to survive the "environmental changes" after the "flood", why did Noah even bother collecting them? If the dinosaurs are extinct, why did God ultimately fail to save them from the "Flood" and its aftermath? Because of these theological dilemmas, many YECs want to believe that at least some dinosaurs survived and that they are occasionally seen and interpreted as dragons by various cultures or that they are now living in poorly explored jungles in Africa and Papua New Guinea (i.e., "Lost World"). YECs further believe that the existence of modern dinosaurs would be an embarrassment to the scientific establishment, which claims that the last dinosaurs died out 65 million years ago. That is, if the Cenozoic record is really 65 million years long and modern dinosaurs exist, why are there no dinosaur remains in the Cenozoic record? On the other hand, they argue, if the "post-Flood" geologic record is only about 4,000 years long, then "post-Flood" dinosaurs could easily survive into modern times. Furthermore, if a "worldwide Flood" is really necessary to preserve large numbers of fossils, then dinosaur remains could easily escape preservation in modern sediments.
By citing dragon legends as "evidence" of historical dinosaurs, Alferov (2000) and his supporters fail to realize that reports of dragons and other creatures (just like the stories in Genesis 1-11, the contents of The National Enquirer, Elvis sightings, and the writings of the church fathers) may be more imagination, misinterpretation, rumor and exaggeration than fact. Legends and old drawings are not good scientific evidence. Indeed, the recent discovery of a 700-year old drawing of Mickey Mouse on the wall of an Austrian church should warn people to be careful of how they interpret ancient legends and drawings.
Clearly, YECs are very biased about which fantasies they endorse, whether they are modern rumors or ancient legends. Although many of them support dragon legends and show sympathy for the existence of the Loch Ness monster (another plesiosaur legend), I see no YEC endorsements for the Big Foot fantasy. I guess that's because the supporters of Big Foot often claim that it's an ape ancestor of humans, and what anti-evolutionist could support that?
Alferov, T., 2000, "Dragons: Animals...Not Apparitions" Creation Magazine, v. 22, n. 3, June-August, p. 14-16.
Jerlstroem, P.G., 1998, "Live Plesiosaurs: Weighing the Evidence", Creation Ex Nihilo Technical Journal, v. 12, n. 3, p. 339-346.
Overton, B. 1981, Evolution in the Light of Scripture, Science and Sense, J.C. Choate Publications, Winona.