Most-read articles on The GeoChristian, 2012

There are still a few days left in the year, but here are the ten most-read articles on The GeoChristian for 2012. Only one of them was written this year.

  1. Dr. Dino still in prison — This has consistently been the most-read article on The GeoChristian since I wrote it almost four years ago. Kent Hovind, a.k.a. “Dr. Dino,” is a favorite of many young-Earth creationists, but is wrong about just about everything, from geology to law to a number of conspiracy theories.
  2. Stegosaurus in Cambodian temple? — Is there really a dinosaur engraved at Ta Prohm? Nah.
  3. Augustine: The Literal Meaning of Genesis — St. Augustine rips into those who use bad science to prop up their Christian faith.
  4. The stratigraphic column — not a figment of geologists’ imaginations — Cambrian, Ordovician, Silurian… YEC flood geology doesn’t explain this.
  5. John MacArthur on the age of the Earth and theistic evolution — I like John MacArthur as a Bible teacher, but…
  6. Dinosaur footprints part 3 — Why dinosaur footprints are powerful evidence against YEC flood geology.
  7. John Piper and the age of the Earth — One of many thoroughly orthodox Bible teachers who believes that Earth could be billions of years old.
  8. Seeing God in nature — A quote from author Philip Yancey on the value of God’s creation.
  9. Death before the fall — an old-Earth Biblical Perspective — The Bible does not teach that animals did not die before Adam’s sin.
  10. Young-Earth creationism and the intensity of volcanism — My analysis of a really bad age-of-the-Earth argument from the Institute for Creation Research.

Grace and Peace

Nathaniel Jeanson of the Institute for Creation Research in Montana, part 5

This is the fifth post in a multi-part review of a young-Earth creationist (YEC) presentation given by Dr. Nathaniel Jeanson of the Institute for Creation Research in Billings, Montana in November 2012.

Part 1— The Relevance of Genesis (I was in complete agreement with Dr. Jeanson). The YEC version of the scientific method.

Part 2 — Hyper-rapid post-flood diversification of species. Five fossil facts that YECs think point to Noah’s flood.

Part 3 — Distortion of “uniformitarianism.” Mount St. Helens.

Part 4 — Seawater. Mud sedimentation rates. Radiometric dating.

Part 5 — This page. Dinosaurs in the land of bunnies and daisies. My question in the Q&A.

I am an old-Earth Christian and strongly disagree with much of what Dr. Jeanson presented. I believe that young-Earth creationism is neither Biblically necessary nor scientifically feasible. Dr. Jeanson is my brother in Christ, and nothing I am writing in this series should be taken as an attack on him or any other YEC believer.

There are two additional posts related to this conference. In I do have an advocate before the Father, I discuss a conversation I had with a fellow attendee at the conference. In There is more than one way to be really wrong about the environment, I critique a video that was shown promoting a radical anti-environmental documentary.

Dinosaurs in the land of bunnies and daisies

Dr. Jeanson concluded his two-day seminar on young-Earth creationism with a segment on dinosaurs. It was the standard YEC presentation on the topic:

  • Dinosaurs lived with humans as recently as 4300 years ago.
  • Tyrannosaurus ate plants and mosquitoes sucked plant juice.
  • Dinosaurs are mentioned in the Bible, and proof that they existed until quite recently can be found in places like Angkor Wat in Cambodia.
  • Part of the reason they went extinct could be the ice age, which occurred between 2300 and 2000 B.C. (“The flood is the best, or only, explanation for the ice age.”)
  • Or maybe they are not extinct; they might still be alive today in the dark jungles of Africa.

I’ll make just a few comments, and will make no attempt to address everything said:

  • Dinosaurs are not mentioned in the Bible. I’ve addressed this in my post The ESV Study Bible on creation — Dinosaurs in Job? Do the YECs really want us to believe that a sauropod could hide under the lotus plants along the Jordan River?
  • The carving at the Ta Prohm complex at Angkor Wat, Cambodia, is not a Stegosaurus. I wrote Stegosaurus in Cambodian temple? in response to this common YEC claim. The “plates” on the back of the critter in the carving are part of a leaf motif that occurs throughout the site, and the tail has no spikes.
  • The Bible does not say that there was no animal death before the fall of Adam, as I demonstrated in my post Death before the fall — an old-Earth Biblical perspective. YECs are reading something into the text, and then taking that as proof that dinosaurs couldn’t have died before Adam sinned.
  • The dinosaurs did not go extinct during the ice age only 4000 years ago. Pleistocene terrestrial fossils (in what YECs would call post-flood deposits) include mastodons and sabertooth cats, but not dinosaurs. The whole “ice age occurred only 4000 years ago and lasted only a couple hundred years” scenario is almost harder to accept than “flood geology.”
  • The Mokele-Mbembe argument (there really are large dinosaurs in the jungles of Africa) should be on Answers in Genesis’s Arguments we don’t use page. Until someone actually provides evidence that there are sauropods roaming the jungles, this is just Sasquatch science.

Many of these problems stem from the YEC “bunnies and daisies” interpretive framework for Genesis 1. In the Bible, Adam and Eve are placed in a garden, a safe place that is distinct from the rest of the Earth. Adam is given the command to go out and rule over the Earth; to subdue it and have dominion over it. This implies that Earth was somewhat wild and in need of being subdued. In the YEC framework, on the other hand, the entire Earth is a gentle place, filled with kind animals and soft flowers out of a cartoon created for four-year-olds.

My question in the Q&A time

I made a brief statement and asked a question in the Saturday question and answer time. It went something like this:

I have a Master’s degree in geology and was once a member of the Creation Research Society, but abandoned young-Earth creationism when I figured out it wasn’t Biblically necessary. By God’s grace, my faith stayed intact throughout my transition from young-Earth creationism to acceptance of an old Earth, but this hasn’t been the case for many geology students when they figure out that much of YEC science simply does not work. For example, I have heard that some former students in the Institute for Creation Research’s Master’s degree program in geology went on to have their own crises of faith. This is anecdotal evidence; I have no statistics, but few if any have gone on to be involved in creation research or ministries. Why do you think it is that almost no geologists have been convinced by evidence presented by young-Earth creationists?

First of all, Dr. Jeanson was able to name an ICR geology M.S. student who is still active in YEC teaching and research, and that is Dr. John Whitmore of Cedarville University. I knew that, but it had slipped my mind when I asked the question. I would be very interested, however, to see statistics of what has happened to ICR geology students over the years.

Dr. Jeanson’s reason for why so few geologists have been convinced had to do with worldviews. Geologists have been indoctrinated by an anti-God, “uniformitarian” way of thinking, and simply cannot see the evidence that is before their eyes. But this does not explain why so few Christian geologists have been convinced by YEC arguments. As a Christian with geological training, my problem with YEC science is not that I have a wrong worldview (my worldview is probably very close to that of Dr. Jeanson), but that most of what YECs teach simply does not work in the real world of rocks, seas, streams, glaciers, volcanoes, and fossils.

The tragedy for geologists, and many other scientists, is that all this bad evidence—promoted as true to the Bible—closes the door for the gospel. They cannot believe because they have been convinced by both skeptics and YECs that to do so would require them to accept YEC science, which is neither necessary Biblically nor workable scientifically.

Grace and Peace

Stegosaurus in Cambodian temple?

Does this carving at the Ta Prohm temple complex in Cambodia prove that dinosaurs of the genus Stegosaurus were still alive in Southeast Asian jungles only 1000 years ago?

Carving at Ta Prohm temple, near the more famous Angkor Wat, Cambodia. Image from Neurologica Blog.

Some young-Earth creationists think so. An example of a web page dedicated to this is found at Dinosaurs in ancient Cambodian temple — Amazing evidence that dinosaurs and humans coexisted. Other carvings in this temple are of local animals such as deer, monkeys, and birds, and so this carving must prove that Stegosaurus was wandering around the jungles of Southeast Asia as well.

My response is: No.

I’ve been wanting to write about this one for some time, and was prompted into action when I saw this discussed on a paleontology blog this morning (Dinosaur Tracking: Stegosaurus, Rhinoceros, or Hoax?).

Superficially, this carving looks like a Stegosaurus. It has the arched shape that Stegosaurus toys sometimes have, and a row of things that look like plates running down the back. Here are my reasons why I don’t think this carving is of a Stegosaurus:

  • The head is completely wrong for Stegosaurus. Stegosaurus had a tiny head; the carvings in Cambodia show a creature with a proportionately larger head.
Stegosaurus, ddd Museum, from Wikipedia. Note the tiny head.
Stegosaurus, Senckenberg Museum, Frankfurt, Germany. From Wikipedia: Stegosaurus. Note the tiny head. Credit: Evak
  • The tail is wrong for Stegosaurus. Where are the spikes?
  • The legs are wrong for Stegosaurus. In the carving, the front and hind legs are of equal length; in a real Stegosaurus the hind legs are considerably longer than the front legs.
  • The body is wrong for Stegosaurus. Back in the late 1800s and early 1900s, Stegosaurus, and many other dinosaurs, were depicted with arched backs. Based on further study, we now know that most dinosaurs had less curvature in their backs. Look at the picture  above for a modern interpretation, and at the picture below for the 100-year old interpretation.
From Wikipedia: Stegosaurus. Drawing from O.C. Marsh, 1896.
  • The back plates in the carving are only superficially similar to the plates found on fossil Stegosaurus, which actually had two parallel rows of plates.
  • Similar features are found on the perimeter of some other carvings (though not on the backs of the animals). For example, here is a carving interpreted by as a water buffalo, with, um… Stegosaurus plates for a decorative border:
  • If Stegosaurus lived in Cambodia only 1000 years ago when the Angkor Wat/Ta Prohm temples were built, why are there no Stegosaurus bones found in Asia, whether in archeological sites or in the fossil record?
  • There are plausible alternatives. Some have suggested a rhinoceros or boar in front of a vegetated background. I think a much better alternative is a chameleon. The head and eyes are right, the overall body shape isn’t bad, and chameleons have a serrated ridge along their back (though not as pronounced as on the carving). The tail isn’t quite right, but it isn’t right for being a Stegosaurus either. Given two possibilities—Stegosaurus or chameleon—I think we should go for the chameleon in this case.
Chameleon. From Wikipedia: Chameleon
Chameleon. From Wikipedia: Chameleon. Credit: Adrian Pingstone
  • Another alternative is that this represents a mythical Hindu creature, such as a makara.
Hindu god Varuna riding a makara. From Wikipedia: Varuna

I would hope that the above reasoning would be sufficient to convince even young-Earth creationists to not use this sort of argument. In some cases this has been true: I see this kind of stuff on the fringe YEC sites, but haven’t seen it used by Answers in Genesis or the Institute for Creation Research, both of which have people capable of sifting out the more extreme claims. [Update 3/23/09: AiG does use this as evidence. Sigh]

As a Christian who accepts an old age for the Earth, I would add one more argument against the validity of the Ta Prohm Stegosaurus carving:

  • Stegosaurus fossils are only found in rocks of the Late Jurassic period, with no examples from the Cretaceous or Cenozoic. Did they hide for 145 million years, only to show up in the jungles of Cambodia?

Another possibility is that this carving is a fraud, having been carved in the past century. This could be, but I have assumed in this post that the carving is genuine.

In conclusion, to use the Ta Prohm carving as evidence that humans and dinosaurs lived together only a short time ago is bad apologetics. This is one more thing to make us look silly in the eyes of nonbelievers. Don’t feed this to your kids, and don’t use it to try to convince anyone of the truthfulness of Scriptures. As a Christian, I believe that the Bible is true and that it says exactly what God wants it to say. We don’t have to resort to pseudoarcheology to defend it.

Grace and Peace