Creationists on dinosaurs and dragons
On 5 Aug 2013, creationist Ken Ham addressed the issue of why dinosaurs are not explicitly mentioned in the Bible, given that, according to the creationist worldview, the earth and all its living inhabitants were created in a few days about 6000 years ago (so that dinosaurs were created with humans and must have co-existed with humans).
Ham’s view is that not only did dinosaurs co-exist with humans, they were also taken aboard Noah’s ark. He cites, for evidence, Gen. 6:19-20, where God instructed Noah to take two of every land animal onto the ark.
Not to be outdone, on 14 Aug 2013 creationist Darek Isaacs declared that dragons were real. As with Ham, the evidence he cites is the Bible itself. For instance, Rev. 12:9 declares that the “great dragon” was cast out into the earth; Rev. 20:2 speaks of an angel that “laid hold on the dragon.” Isaacs asserts
The Bible speaks about dragons. … Our authority — everything we do, we have to measure by the word of God. That is what I believe. So we have to go to the Bible, and the Bible speaks about dragons.
Scientific difficulties with Ham’s dinosaurs and Isaacs’ dragons
Needless to say, the positions held by Ham and Isaacs are utterly in conflict with very well-established scientific research. The geological ages of the earth have been dated to be many millions of years old; the earth itself is 4.5 billion years old. The layer containing the last of the dinosaur fossils has been dated, using the best available techniques, to be 66,000,000 years old, which was at least 65,000,000 years before any humans walked the earth (modern humans existed only within the past one million years).
Similarly, claims that “dragons” roamed the seas during ancient times do not hold up to scientific scrutiny, unless one loosely defines “dragons” as known sea creatures such as whales (which Isaacs evidently does not allow).
Is the Bible “inerrant” and “infallible”?
But even setting aside scientific considerations, the approaches taken by Ham and Isaacs to the Bible go far beyond the views held even by relatively conservative biblical scholars and denominations. Even the majority of scholars who believe the Bible to be the Word of God nonetheless acknowledge that the Bible was produced by humans, has certain flaws, and, in any event, certainly should not be read primarily or even secondarily as a scientific treatise. Difficulties with the inerrant approach include:
- Translation errors: flaws exist in all translations.
- Text inserted and/or changed by copyists: for example, the “anti-women” passage 1 Cor. 14:33-35 does not appear in the earliest manuscripts and is widely regarded as a later insertion.
- Numerous missing books and passages: for example, the Book of Jasher (Joh. 10:13) and the Book of Nathan the Prophet (1 Chron. 29:29) do not appear in the present canon.
- Questionable inclusions: the Song of Songs (also known as the Song of Solomon) is widely regarded as love poetry.
- Literary works: several books of the Bible (e.g., Book of Job) are much more reasonably viewed as literary works than as literal history, as are passages (e.g., Psalms 93:1, 104:5) that describe the earth as immovable, and others (e.g., Eccl. 1:5) that describe the sun as rotating around the earth.
- Internal discrepancies: for example, the genealogy of Jesus in Matt. 1:1-17 disagrees with Luke 3:23-38; also Matt. 10:2-4 and Mark 3:16-18 disagree with Luke 6:14-16 and Acts 1:13 in the list of Jesus’ original 12 apostles.
None of these issues detract from the status of the Bible, but they do underscore the hopelessness of the inerrant position adopted by creationists. For additional details and examples, see Bible-inerrant and Bible-science.
With regards to scientific issues, it is abundantly clear that the Bible was never intended to be read as a scientific treatise in our modern sense. One can search in vain for even a single passage of scripture that is written in the highly precise, quantitative style of a scientific research paper. What’s more, even relatively conservative denominations agree that the Bible must be read with an intelligent, reasonable mind on scientific matters. For example, Pope John Paul II declared, “The Bible itself speaks … [not] to provide us with a scientific treatise, but in order to state the correct relationships of man with God and with the universe.”
Creationist attempts to read “dinosaurs” and “dragons” into the biblical text are not only patently unscientific, but unbiblical as well. The Bible, after all, is not a scientific treatise, nor was it ever intended to be read in this way. Creationists do not advance their cause by twisting the Bible into something it is not.