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Suppose a living dinosaur were found....

Over 99% of geological and biological scientists support the concept that evolution of the species occurred over a very long time period. They have reached a consensus that the dinosaurs appear to have become extinct about 70 million years ago. Many scientists believe that an asteroid slammed into Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula at that time, and created a 112 mile (180 km) diameter crater. This set off a catastrophe that eventually caused over 70% of the Earth's species to go extinct. Dinosaurs were among these species. 10

Many web sites which promote the conservative Christian version of creation science imply that if a dinosaur were found alive today, then the theory of evolution would totally collapse. Those Christians would also expect evolution to disintegrate if some proof surfaced that dinosaurs coexisted with humans at some time in the past.

Some young-earth creation scientists have claimed that dinosaurs were alive until a few thousand years ago -- perhaps even more recently -- and occupied the land together with humans:

bulletA children's religious program produced by the Institute for Creation Research was broadcast over many conservative Christian radio stations in 2003-FEB. It described how evidence of live dinosaur DNA had been found in a dinosaur bone. If true, it would prove that the dinosaur was alive much more recently than 75 million years ago, because DNA could not possibly remain intact for that long. A writer at the Crying Voice in the Wilderness website was apparently referring to the same experiment whey they wrote: "Some fragments of DNA were found in supposedly 80 million year-old dinosaur bones. This means that the dinosaur bones are only a couple of thousand years old." 1
bulletA fossil expedition involving representatives of Vision Forum, the Institute for Creation Research and Creation Expeditions uncovered a Allosaurus fossil on private property in the Skullcreek Basin of northwest Colorado. Peter DeRosa was one of the members of the expedition. He is described extensively on the Internet as "an experienced archaeologist and paleontologist." 11 However he appears to be only on the order of 21 years of age, described, along with Mark DeRosa as being "boys [who] are genuine prodigies and future leaders." 12 He Peter would seem to be many years away from achieving doctorates in paleontology and archaeology, and perhaps two decades away from being called an expert in both fields. He wrote: "The evidence strongly points to a relatively recent and catastrophic event similar to that described in the Bible as the flood of Noah's day....Not only was this fully articulated dinosaur found lying in a bed of leaves and plant debris, but there is wood from trees mixed in among the bones, some of which contains petrified and unpetrified elements in the same piece of wood. If this creature were millions of years old, the evidence would look quite different." 2,3 He concluded that the wood, leaves, plant debris, and dinosaur bones are all from the same era. This must have been in the recent past; otherwise the wood would have been fully petrified, and the leaves would have totally decayed.
bulletThere are numerous claims of fossilized footprints from humans or horses found within dinosaur footprints. 4 If true, then they would be evidence that dinosaurs and humans lived together in the same locale .
bulletGenesis Park describes a number of images drawn by Neanderthals and by humans in the Middle East which resemble dinosaurs. The suggestion is that the artists were drawing pictures of dinosaurs from memory of having seen the animals. 5

It is unlikely that any of these observations will survive detailed study. For example:

bulletThe dinosaur DNA was not detected directly, but only indirectly from the effects observed in rats after they were injected with a substance found in the bone.
bulletSkeptic Jeff Hall, discussing the Allosaurus, commented: "The leaves and wood could never last long enough for any fossil to form without decaying first, so maybe they somehow settled onto the overlying rock, and into cracks much more recently." 2 Unfortunately, from the description of the discovery, it is apparent that only creation scientists are to be allowed access to the site.
bulletScientist James Hutchins, referring to human and dinosaur footprints having being found together, claims that: "This has been thoroughly refuted to the point that even most creationists no longer spout this groundless claim. The supposedly human tracks have been found to be the result of numerous phenomena which include, but are not limited to: elongated dinosaur tracks, erosional features, indistinct markings of unknown origin, and a few carvings." 6
bulletArtists from many cultures over the past many thousands of years have probably portrayed thousands of imaginary animals. It is quite logical that some might look like an extinct species of dinosaurs. After all, the outline of a dog would look very much like a dinosaur if you stretched its neck quite a bit, and perhaps shortened its legs.

But even if one of these observations pans out, and it is proven that dinosaurs were alive on earth within historical times, the theory of evolution would not topple. Only one detail -- that dinosaurs are believed to have became extinct about 75 million years ago -- would have to be revised. The basic principle of evolution -- that mutations and natural selection cause new species to develop from existing species over long periods of time -- would remain intact.

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Just how extinct is an extinct species?

When scientists say that a species became extinct at some point in the past, they mean that there is no evidence that any members of that species existed after that date. However, it is quite possible for a species to live on, and yet leave no trace in the fossil record.

Precisely this type of event happened to a species of rather ugly looking, but beautifully colored ocean fish: the coelacanth. Scientists believe that the species first appeared about 400 million years ago. They also once assumed that it became extinct because the most recent evidence of the species was a fossil  of an animal that died about 65 million years ago. Then, in 1938, a living member of the species was found near Anjouan in the Comoros Islands, off of South Africa. It was obtained from a fisherman by Marjorie Courtenay Latimer, the curator of a museum in East London, South Africa. She noted that it "bore similarities to a prehistoric fish, particularly in the structure of the head and the tri-lobed shape of the tail." Professor J.L.B. Smith verified her assessment that it was a prehistoric fish -- a coelacanth. According to the Coelacanth Rescue Mission, "A living dinosaur, it was said, would be no more amazing than this incredible discovery." 7 Since then, other members of the same species have been found. They have have been caught off of Madagascar; Mozambique; Sodwana, South Africa; and North Sulwesi, Indonesia. There are rumors of coelacanths being found off Puerto Rico. They remain a very rare species. The total world population is estimated at under one thousand.

Scientists simply revised their original belief that the coelacanth had become extinct. Apparently, a very few did survive after all, and continued propagating until the present time -- although never in large numbers. Because they were rare, they left behind no evidence of their existence in the fossil record. The coelacanth has became known as a "living fossil."

Dinosaurs may also have survived until the present time. It is quite possible that the dinosaurs were almost wiped out circa 75 million years ago, but that some survived somewhere in the world. If they existed in very small numbers, it is possible that few fossils would have been preserved, and that none were ever found. Thus, although scientists assume that dinosaurs went extinct 75 million years ago, they they must keep open the possibility that a very few survived -- even to the present day. If one were found, then the basic theory of evolution would not be changed one iota. Only the continued presence of one or more species of dinosaurs would have been confirmed.

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How could evolution be proven false?

That would not be a simple task!

The foundational observations which support evolution are the ordered fossil record and radiometric analysis of the dates of rocks.

bulletIf the radiometric analysis of the age of rocks is valid, then two main beliefs of young-earth creation scientists are disproved.
bulletThe rock layers were deposited over billions of years, not during the 150 days of Noah's flood.
bulletThat the earth is on the order of 4.6 billion years old, not many thousands of years old.

Still, if some convincing proof were discovered that the radiometric analyses are in error by about a factor of 500,000 or so, and that the earth is fewer than 10,000 years of age, then evolution would be disproved. There simply would not have been sufficient time for all of the new species to have evolved. Six specialists in geology, geochemistry and physics have formed the Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth (RATE) research group. They have been working since 1997 to disprove radiometric dating, to prove that the earth is young, and thereby disprove evolution. 8

bulletThe most obvious feature of the fossil record is that there are a lot of fossils of clam-like species. If one focuses on the remaining fossils, it becomes clear that the fossils are sorted by geological age. Deep rock layers generally contain the remains of simple creatures; the upper layers have evidence of more complex animals. By studying the entire fossil record, one can determine in what order various species first appeared and when they apparently became extinct.

The sorting of fossils is complete. Dinosaurs have never been found in the same layer as trilobites; trilobites have never been seen together with human remains; dinosaur remains have not been found with human remains. And so on for perhaps a million other combinations. There are literally millions of pairs of species which have never been found together in the same rock layer. One simple example may clarify this. There is a thin layer of clay containing a high concentration of Iridium which was laid down between the Cretaceous and Tertiary rock layers -- apparently about 65 million years ago. 9 Because it is found in so many places around the world, it is a very useful date marker. There are thousands of species whose fossils are only found lower in the fossil record than this layer; there are thousands of species which are only found higher. This is overwhelming proof that the rock layers, and the species they contain, were laid down over long periods of time. In order to disprove evolution, it would be necessary for creation scientists to prove that all species co-existed together, and were somehow precisely sorted into layers by species without ever having making an error. We are unaware of any efforts by young-earth creation scientists working in this area.

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  1. "Dinosaurs: Dinosaurs Lived Together With Men and They Aren't All Extinct," Crying Voice in the Wilderness at: http://www.geocities.com/
  2. Jeff Hall, "Home School Students Find Complete Allosaurus Fossil: Claim That it Debunks Evolution," Maine Skeptic, 2002-MAY-25 at:  http://www.maineskeptic.com/
  3. "Evolution Watch: Home-schoolers find intact dinosaur skeleton; Scientist says 22-foot animal likely died during cataclysmic flood," WorldNetDaily, 2002-MAY-21. at: http://www.worldnetdaily.com/
  4. "Evidence that Dinosaurs and Humans co-existed: Dinosaur & Human Footprints Together," The Interactive Bible, at: http://www.bible.ca/tracks/tracks.htm
  5. "Genesis Park Exhibit Hall: Room 1: The Dinosaurs," at: http://www.genesispark.com/
  6. James Hutchins, "10 questions an evolutionists just answered," at: http://indymensa.tripod.com/jimspage.htm
  7. Jerome Hamlin, "The fish out of time," http://www.dinofish.com/ ("Fish Out of Time" is a Trademark of Third Wave Media Inc.)
  8. "RATE Group Reports Major Advances," Institute for Creation Research, at: http://www.icr.org/newsletters/
  9. "Iceland and the Iridium layer," Science Frontiers Online, #15, 1981-Spring, at: http://www.science-frontiers.com/sf015/sf015p11.htm
  10.  "Radar reveals traces of killer crater," MSNBC, 2003-MAR-6, at: http://www.msnbc.com/
  11. On 2005-JUL-04, a Google search using the string allosaur "Peter DeRosa" paleontologist returned ten hits. The first four including the phrase "Peter DeRosa, a veteran archaeologist and paleontologist with Creation Expeditions."
  12. Doug Phillips, "Doug's Blog," at: http://www.visionforum.com/ Search for "August 05, 2003"

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Copyright 2003 to 2005 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally published on 2003-FEB-17
Most recent update: 2005-AUG-30
Author: B.A. Robinson

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