"Dinosaurs and the Bible" by Ken Ham
A critique by Michael Suttkus
Last night, a friend of mine gave me a copy of Ken Ham's booklet, "Dinosaurs and the Bible." I found it to be easily the most vapid piece of creationist literature I have ever encountered. Now, on one level, this isn't surprising, since it's a booklet, not really a long document that could be used to present large amounts of argument or evidence. However, this document is inexcusable.
The cover has a picture of a tyrannosaur (or someone's conception of a tyrannosaur, anyway) charging towards the reader. Behind him is a medieval looking city (complete with steepled church). To the left is a mountain with a large boat (presumably the ark, unless you know of another large boat stuck up on a mountain) on it. This is just petty, but I find the juxtaposition here hilarious.
Inside, we find that the book was written by "Ken Ham, B.App.Sc, Dip. Ed." Apparently, part of the "whoever has the most letters after their name, wins" school of signing.
[N.B.: When quoting from the book, I will use slashes to indicate where the original text has italicized a section.]
Section 1: Is There Really a Mystery About Dinosaurs?
Ken gives a lot of not particularly mysterious questions and tells us that people are fascinated by "these mysterious monsters." Fair enough. He then says, "the truth of the matter, however, is that there are no real mysteries at all, once you have key information that is not generally known and is withheld from the public."
So, right from the start, we're into the Conspiracy Theory of Science. Somewhere, information is being withheld! Of course, nowhere in the book does it actually state what this information is.
Section 2: Did Dinosaurs Really Exist?
Ken says that dinosaurs really existed.
Section 3: When Were Dinosaurs Found?
We get two paragraphs reviewing of the early history of dinosaur discovery. Ken says that:
"a famous British scientist (and creationist), Dr. Richard Owen, coined the name 'Dinosauria,' meaning 'terrible lizard,' for this is what the huge bones made him think of."
He fails to mention that Owen and others considered the theropod dinosaurs to be like combinations of birds and lizards. I can't imagine why.
Section 4: What Makes Dinosaurs "Different?"
In one sentence, he reveals exactly how little he knows about dinosaurs:
"Other than the huge size of some dinosaurs, the major feature that really distinguishes dinosaurs from other reptiles (such as crocodiles) is the position of their limbs."
It would be impossible to distinguish dinosaurs from other reptiles, for much the same reason that it's impossible to distinguish my sister from other fungus. It simply isn't a sensible claim. My sister isn't a fungus, dinosaurs weren't reptiles. Also, he fails to mention the numerous other characters, such as skull, wrist and hip structure, that distinguish dinosaurs. Of course, all of those make them seem a lot like birds......
Section 5: How Big Were Dinosaurs?
At this point, I was beginning to wonder whether he'd ever get around to discussing evolution at all.
Some were big, some were little. This section is actually largely accurate. Superfluous and irrelevant, but accurate.
Section 6: When Did Dinosaurs Live?
Four pages into the book (almost a fifth of the document) and we finally get to the subject at hand, sort of:
"According to evolutionists, the dinosaurs 'ruled the Earth' for 140 million years, dying out about 65 million years ago. However, scientists do not dig up anything labeled with those ages. They only uncover /dead/ dinosaurs (i.e., their bones), and their bones do /not/ have labels attached telling how old they are. The idea of millions of years of evolution is just the evolutionists' /story/ about the past."
Sadly for Ken Ham, some of the bones are labeled, with radioisotopes among other things. Rather than trying to debunk radioactive decay, Ken simply pretends that it doesn't exist. Can I debunk creationism by pretending that Ken Ham doesn't exist?
He doesn't even bother to try and explain away the evidence that science uses to decide that the dinosaurs died 65 million years ago. He simply declares it a story and moves on. Pathetic, even by creationist standards.
Now, we have the old chestnut:
"No scientist was there to see the dinosaurs live through this supposed dinosaur age."
Fair enough. No scientist was there to see the Aztec empire either, so that probably didn't exist. The Celts didn't exist either. No scientist saw the authors of the Bible, so that can be discarded as well. Isn't it funny how the creationists don't apply the same standards of evidence to their own "theories."
"In fact, there is no proof whatsoever that the world and its fossil layers are millions of years old."
Really? Then what's all that stuff I read about in textbooks? Sure looked like evidence to me. In one sense, it's true, since there isn't any proof of anything, only evidence. On the other hand, again we have Ken applying a standard of truth (absolute proof) that he would never dream of applying to his own ideas:
"Scientists only find the bones in the here and now, and because many of them are evolutionists, they try to fit the story of the dinosaurs into their view."
Like so many creationists, Ken puts the cart before the horse. One hundred and fifty years ago, creationist scientists tried desperately to fit the evidence into their creationist story.
They failed, and had to find another one. Ken, of course, won't mention this fact. It wasn't evolutionists who created evolution, it was creationists who couldn't reconcile the facts with their beliefs. I wonder why Ken doesn't bring this up?
Notice some of the word choices above. Evolutionists, we're told, have stories, and "try to fit" the evidence with their stories. What about the creationists?
"Other scientists, called creation scientists, have a different idea about when the dinosaurs lived. They believe they can solve any supposed dinosaur mysteries and show how the evidence fits wonderfully with their ideas about the past, beliefs that come from the Bible."
According to Ham, scientists try to fit the evidence to their stories, but the word "try" isn't used here. Creationists are implied to be succeeding. And while scientists have "stories," creationists have ideas and beliefs. It would be funny if it weren't so sad:
"The Bible, God's very special book (or collection of books, really), claims that each writer was supernaturally inspired to write exactly what the Creator of all things wanted them to write down for us so that we can know where we (and dinosaurs) came from, why we are here, and what our future will be."
And here we see that creationists understand the Bible as well as they understand science: not at all. Although a passage in Second Timothy does claim that scripture (not the Bible) was inspired by God, there is no passage that could be mistaken for "exactly what [God] wanted them to write." In fact, the passage doesn't even suggest that God actively inspired them, rather that they were simply passively inspired (the way a sunrise inspires me to write poetry). In short, creationist ignorance knows no bounds.
Ken then discusses the age of the earth according to the Bible. At no point does he even attempt to present any evidence for their views, he simply refers to the Bible and calls it science.
In discussing the six days of creation, Ken says:
"Furthermore, Bible scholars will tell you that the Hebrew word for day used in Genesis chapter one, can only mean an ordinary day in this context." (sic)
This is absolutely untrue, or we wouldn't have "day = age" creationists insisting exactly the opposite. But then, creationists have never been big on consistency.
Further, Ken ignores the possibility that the six days weren't contiguous. Yet again, other creationists would argue with this one, claiming that the six days were separated by millions of years. In short, Ken has no time for alternative ideas.
Next, Ken says that if we add up all the begats, and assume that Jesus was born in A.D. 1, then the earth is about 6000 years old. Still no non-biblical evidence for anything in this "creation science."
"Thus, if the Bible is right (and it is!), dinosaurs must have lived within the past thousands of years."
Gee, no wishy-washy "believing" or "stories" or "ideas" here. The Bible is right, so there! Of course, if the Bible is right, then Judas died in two completely contradictory ways on an earth that is flat and doesn't move. It's not; deal with it.
Section 7: Where did Dinosaurs Come From?
"Evolutionists claim that dinosaurs evolved over millions of years. They imagine that one kind of animal slowly changed over long periods of time to become a different kind of animal."
Notice the word choice again. Scientists "imagine" and "claim." Compare them with the creationist words later.
"This would mean, of course, that there would have to have been millions of creatures during that time that would be "in between," as amphibians evolved into reptiles. Evidence of these "transitional forms" should be abundant."
And is. Check out Transition from amphibians to amniotes (first reptiles) if you don't believe me.
He gives no reason to reject these as transitionals, he simply asserts that there are not any, and gives us the following:
"However, many fossil experts admit that not one unquestionable transitional form between any group of creatures and another has been found anywhere."
No references to check on any of these supposed experts is given. Every one of the quotes that purport to show this that I've seen from creationists have proven to be:
1. Taken out of context, really discussing something else.
2. Out of date by over fifty years.
3. Referring to the species/species problem nicely solved by allopatric speciation.
4. Out and out falsehoods.
"In fact, if you go to a museum, you will see fossils of dinosaurs that are 100% dinosaur, not something in between. There are no 25%, 50%, 75% or even 99% dinosaurs--they are all 100% dinosaur!"
This is completely untrue. Thecodonts are 50% reptile and 50% dinosaur, completely contradicting this claim. In fact, nearly every single group of vertebrates shows such partial transitions. No evidence is given to reject these transitions, only the assertion that they don't exist. See Transitional Vertebrate Fossils FAQ for a large number of other transitional forms that creationists deny without reason.
Having ignored hundreds of thousands of fossils for no reason other than he doesn't like them, he goes on to claim that creationists expect exactly what they see. (Probably true, they've got blinders on that don't let them see anything they don't expect.)
The section ends with:
"Evolutionists declare that no man ever lived alongside dinosaurs."
Note that "declare" implies that scientists are just making this stuff up. Again, none of the evidence for that declaration is discussed, only an assertion that it is wrong.
"The Bible, however, makes it plain that dinosaurs and people /must/ have lived together. Actually, as we will soon see, there is a lot of evidence for this."
And that evidence is the biggest laugh in the whole book. Wait for s.11.
We do get a nice cartoon of the six days of Genesis, though, complete with little anthropomorphic fish and birds and a very happy cave man.
Section 8: What Did the Dinosaurs Eat?
Apparently, God, in his infinite wisdom, gave the sabre toothed tiger really long fangs and powerful running muscles so that it could take down and kill wild bananas. It certainly wasn't for killing animals, since everything ate plants at the time of creation.
This claim has got to be one of the silliest that creationists make, yet here it is, presented without a scrap of evidence to support it. The Bible says so (sort of) so it must be true.
So, if God made all these carnivores, we have to ask why. The only thing that I can think of would be if God expected us to eat the apple, in which case the whole thing is a case of God setting us up for a fall. My God is much nicer than the fundamentalist God, who makes animals designed for eating meat, with teeth unable to adequately chew plants, and then requires them to eat plants.
Section 9: Why Do We Find Dinosaur Fossils?
Much of Noah's Flood is discussed. No attempt to answer the question, "Why do we find the dinosaur fossils in layers that don't have any human fossils if they were living together?" is made. In fact, no attempt to justify the order of the fossil record is made at all. Needless to say, all the other evidence for evolution, genetics, biogeographics, comparative anatomy, vestigial organs, etc. etc. is ignored completely.
He does claim that other fossil layers have been laid down since the flood, but we are given no clue to how we tell pre-flood layers from post flood layers.
Section 10: Have Dinosaurs lived in Recent Times?
Well, since dinosaurs were on the ark, they must have lived in recent times, right? We are told that the behemoth mentioned in Job was a dinosaur. No non-biblical evidence is presented.
Section 11: Are Dinosaurs Mentioned in Ancient Literature?
According to Ken Ham, yes. That is, if you pretend that all references to dragons are dinosaurs, then they are. Fire breathing Tyrannosaurs, anyone?
"Also, there are many very old history books in various libraries around the world that have detailed records of dragons and their encounters with people. Surprisingly (or not so surprisingly for creationists), many of these descriptions of dragons fit with how modern scientists would describe dinosaurs, even Tyrannosaurus."
Really? Name one description of a dragon anywhere in history that could be mistaken for a Tyrannosaurus. I am very fond of mythology and have read quite a bit of it, and I have never once encountered a description of a creature that could be mistaken for a dinosaur.
We get a picture of Saint George fighting a Baryonyx and an Elasmosaurus in Loch Ness. No evidence.
"Unfortunately, this evidence is not considered valid by evolutionists. Why? Only because their belief is that man and dinosaurs did not live at the same time."
Sure, of course, the same documents describe encounters with fairies and pagan gods. Since creationists expect us to believe in dragons based on those old documents, I guess we have to accept that the evidence for Zeus and Odin is just as good.
Section 12: What Happened to the Dinosaurs?
"Evolutionists use their imagination in a big way in answering this question."
Sure we do. Then we go out and look for evidence. This can be compared with the creationists who can't use their imagination and don't look for evidence.
"Because of their belief that dinosaurs 'ruled' the world for millions of years, and then disappeared millions of years before man allegedly evolved, they have to come up with all sorts of guesses to explain the 'mysterious' disappearance."
Gee, it's not because there are no fossils of humans and dinosaurs that we believe they didn't live together. Oh no, it's because we're all committed to our evolutionary paradigm. So, scientists imagine and guess.
He then presents a "small list of theories" as to why evolutionists say dinosaurs died.
"Dinosaurs starved to death--or they died from overeating; they were poisoned; they became blind from cataracts and could not reproduce; mammals ate their eggs. Other causes include--volcanic dust, poisonous gases, comets, sunspots, meteorites, mass suicide, constipation, parasites, shrinking brain (and greater stupidity), slipped discs, changes in the composition of air, etc." (sic)
The most impressive thing about this list is that only three of the items on it have ever been seriously suggested by scientists in my experience. The claim of "mass suicide" only shows how desperate creationists are to find something silly to put in the list. Why not suggest alien big game hunters? I saw that in "Fox Trot", which has more validity than mass suicide has.
"It is obvious that evolutionists don't know what happened and are grasping at straws."
Obvious until you read real scientific literature and look at real evidence. Meanwhile, creationists can't even manage to grasp at straws. Where is the explanation for how the fossil record is sorted?
Ham goes on to explain the extinction of the dinosaurs from a creationist perspective:
"At the time of the Flood, many of the sea creatures died, but some survived."
How any of them managed to survive is not explained. At most, only a handful could have survived, not the teeming diversity we see today. Coral, as only one example, should have been totally wiped out by the Flood. No explanations for why it's still around have been forthcoming from creationists.
"In addition, all of the land creatures outside the Ark died, but the representatives of all the kinds that survived on the Ark lived in the new world after the Flood."
No explanation is given for how plants survived. Indeed, Ham seems to realize that the plants should be dead:
"Those land animals (including dinosaurs) found the new world to be much different than the one before the Flood. Due to (1) competition for food that was no longer in abundance, ... "
Or, indeed, existent at all. Only the carnivores could have made it for even a little while, and then only by eating the other ark animals and starving once they'd run out of them. That's not even counting the problems that parasite survival poses to this preposterous nonsense.
" ... (2) other catastrophes, ... "
Remember, scientists are bad bad BAD for using their imaginations for anything, but creationists are good good GOOD for suggesting that there may have been some other unknown catastrophes. Double standard sticking in your throat yet?
" ... (3) man killing for food (and perhaps for fun), and (4) the destruction of habitats, etc., many species of animals eventually died out."
But the question is, how did any survive? And what about plants?
Consider for a second the case of the poor Indian Pipe. Indian Pipe is a very unusual plant found here in Florida. It has no chlorophyll, and lives in a symbiotic relationship with a certain fungus. The fungus lives only on the roots of certain trees. In order to grow, the Indian Pipe seed has to fall on ground already permeated by the fungus, which has to have adult trees growing to live on. Indian Pipe seeds and fungal spores wouldn't have survived long enough for adult trees to regrow after the flood.
In short, Indian Pipe should be extinct. It's not. And this is only one of millions of similar examples that exist around the globe. Is it any wonder that creationists avoid the subject of plants like the plague?
Section 13: Will We Ever See a Live Dinosaur?
The first paragraph admits, probably not, then claims that natives in many parts of the world have described dinosaurs. Of course, they also describe pagan gods and all kinds of fairy creatures, but the creationists would like you to ignore this in favor of simply accepting their testimony.
The second paragraph in the section, however, is easily the funniest in the book. I present it in its entirety:
"Creationists, of course, would not be surprised if someone found a living dinosaur. However, evolutionists would then have to explain why they made dogmatic statements that man and dinosaur never lived at the same time. I suspect they would say something to the effect that this dinosaur somehow survived because it was trapped in a remote area that has not changed for millions of years. You see, no matter what is found, or how embarrassing it is to evolutionists' ideas, they will always be able to concoct an "answer" because evolution is a belief. It is not science--it is not fact!!"
Oh, yeah, it's the evolutionists who can concoct an answer to anything!
First, the paragraph is a blatant falsehood. Short of invoking time travel, evolution (really common descent, but by this point I can't imagine why I should be surprised that a creationist can't use the terms correctly) would be unable to explain a human fossil in Precambrian rocks. So, it is possible to find something that an evolutionist cannot concoct an answer for.
Now, let's look at creationism. I have asked again and again for a creationist to give us some hypothetical piece of evidence that would disprove creationism. None has ever tried to do this. The simple fact is, absolutely anything can be accepted under creationism simply by invoking the panacea "God dunnit." Why does the world look 4.5 billion years old? God dunnit. Why do we see light from stars over 6000 light years away? God dunnit.
So, by Ken Ham's own claims, creationism is not a science and is not a fact. Thanks, Ken, but we knew that already.
The section ends with a graphic showing a scale. In one pan is a block that says "evolution." It's crumbling and very light. The other pan has a nice solid block that says "creationism," which clearly weighs more than the evolution block. I can only conclude that this is using the Egyptian belief that the heavier the soul, the more sinful and evil it was. Creationism has clearly fallen short of evolution in this graphic.
Section 14: What Lessons Can We Learn From The Dinosaurs?
Nothing. You can't learn moral lessons from nature, since nature is inherently amoral. This isn't good enough for Ham. Fundamentalists have to find lessons in everything (except, apparently, the lesson that the world is older than 6000 years). He has to find lessons about God in the dinosaurs. How does he do it? Well, actually, he doesn't. Only the first three paragraphs even mention dinosaurs. The remaining three pages of text completely forget about dinosaurs and start preaching about redemption and Jesus. So, what was it doing in a chapter called "What Lessons Can We Learn From Dinosaurs?" Got me. Ask Ken Ham.
What evidence does Ken Ham present for creationism? Well, the Bible, and, um, well, some old texts that mention dragons that could, maybe, sort of, be kind of like dinosaurs, and, well, the myths of a few tribes of natives. That's it.
What evidence does he present against evolution? Well, lies. That's it. He lies about the existence of transitional fossils. He also lies by omission by ignoring massive amounts of evidence with his "well, nobody saw them, did they?" nonsense.
In short, completely vapid. Who was it who was telling me that Ken Ham was such a good spokesman? Get real.