There was one final movie to be viewed. This one dealt with dinosaurs and dragons. I think the point was that dragon legends have their origin in the experiences people had interacting with dinosaurs. If this is correct, then all those secular geologists who say people and dinosaurs were separated in time by some sixty-five million years don’t know what they are talking about. Let’s take a look.

We begin with a dramatic voiceover recounting the familiar myth of Saint George and the dragon. There are many versions of the story, and the location changes depending on the particular version you are reading. Regardless, the story involves the people of a particular city needing to procure water from a nearby river. Sadly, the river is guarded by a hostile dragon. To distract the dragon for the time needed to procure the water, a human sacrifice is offered. The sacrifice is determined by lottery, and one day it is the princess who is chosen. A saint appears and slays the dragon, thereby sparing the princess’ life. The people are impressed by this deed, heed his evangelistic message, and convert to Christianity.

After recounting this tale, the narrator says:

A myth, surely. An allegory filled with symbolism. But in the center of that myth is this strange creature. Where did such a creature come from?

There follows a brief recounting of some of the dragon legends from other cultures. Apparently everyone, including the Chinese, Aztecs, Babylonians, Japanese and Europeans has had dragon myths as part of their cultures. The narrator:

But what could have inspired all these stories? Is the dragon simply the creation of inventive minds, or could dragon stories be based in reality? Possibly related to dinosaurs or other amazing reptiles that we find in the fossil record?

After some dramatic music, the narrator continues:

Many scientists contend that dinosaurs died over sixty-five million years before humans came to be. The possibility that humans and dinosaurs ever coexisted is unthinkable to them. But what does the Bible say?

Some scriptural justification is then provided for the idea that dinosaurs were present on the ark. The idea that dinosaurs are of more recent vintage than mainstream science suggests is also indicated by the recent discovery of dinosaur fossils with some of their soft tissues intact, we are told. Such material could not possibly have been preserved through tens of millions of years.

This talking point also featured prominently in Men in White. The reference is to a 2005 discovery by Dr. Mary Schweitzer, a paleontologist then at North Carolina State University. Go here for a news release describing their findings. Essentially, Schweitzer was able to recover microscopic quantities of soft tissues believed to be dinosaur blood vessels, collagen and other such structures.

Fascinating stuff, but the creationists, as usual, give a very misleading impression of what actually happened here. As they tell it you would think that these bones were split open and gouts of fresh blood emerged from inside. In reality we are talking about microscopic quantities of material that could only be liberated from the surrounding bone by heroic measures. Furthermore, there is some real question about whether the recovered substances are really the original dinosaur tissues from the living organism. Just like bones fossilize when organic material is replaced by minerals that effectively turn the bone to rock, it is possible that the original soft tissues were replaced by a substance more amenable to preservation. Gary Hurd provides a thorough discussion of the issue.

Back to the Bible. Does not Job 40:15-17 say:

Behold now behemoth, which I made with thee; he eateth grass as an ox. Lo now, his strength is in his loins, and his force is in the navel of his belly. He moveth his tail like a cedar.

Think this could be a reference to an elephant or a hippo? Please. Do their tails look like swaying cedar trees? It sounds far more like a sauropod dinosaur.

This occupies another minute or two, as various creationist luminaries like Kurt Wise and Ken Ham discourse on the significance of this verse. Ham’s observation that this is one of the most detailed descriptions of an animal provided in the Bible was actually kind of interesting.

Not only does Job discuss the behemoth, it also discusses the leviathan. Among the attributes of the leviathan are the following, from Job 41:19-21:

Out of his mouth go burning lamps, and sparks of fire leap out. Out of his nostrils goeth smoke, as out of a seething pot or caldron. His breath kindleth coals, and a flame goeth out of his mouth.

Pretty suggestive, don’t you think?

The film goes on to offer some speculations about what happened to the dinosaurs after the flood. One creationist worthy suggests that their diet was limited to certain kinds of plants, and that this kept their numbers down. This made it possible for humans to pick them off, either because they feared the dinosaurs or because they showed off their prowess by killing them.

Oddly, the fate of carnivorous dinosaurs never gets discussed.

The film closes with the familiar talking points about how everything falls into place if you start from the Bible:

When you start with the Biblical perspective, the text and other evidence suggests that dinosaurs and other incredible reptiles in the sea and air once lived alongside people at the time of creation, during the flood, and for centuries thereafter. So it is hardly surprising that the world would be filled with legends of heroes, like Saint George, and their encounters with mighty beasts.

Dramatic music, roll the credits. It is interesting that they regard the Biblical text as providing the legitimate historical foundation for myths and stories about dragons. A more reasonable explanation is that the Bible is just one more example of this sort of story telling. If the Chinese or the Aztecs or any of the other cultures mentioned at the start of the film started using their legends as the historical basis for the stories in the Bible, I can just imagine how Answers in Genesis would react!

Coming Up: Creationist Astronomy

Comments

  1. #1 CCP
    June 28, 2007

    Where did I see the speculation that the behemoth’s huge “tail” is a mistranslation and/or euphemism for its…um…intromittent organ?

  2. #2 J-Dog
    June 28, 2007

    How could you not stand up at the end of the show and yell, as loudly as you could, “THIS IS ALL NONSENSE! ANYBODY THAT BELIEVES THIS CRAP IS EFFIN CRAZY!”?

    Whew, I feel better now.

  3. #3 Brando
    June 28, 2007

    Again, it seems clear that if you REALLY don’t want to admit your belief is false, any outlandishly wild claim in its defense is legitimate. The number one thing that kills me about the Creationist mindset is that a mountain of evidence is no merit in the face of one absurd claim.

  4. #4 David D.G.
    June 28, 2007

    Some people (not all of whom, at least, are crackpots) think it possible that the human tendency to have created dragon myths, and to almost universally feel (at least a slight) revulsion toward reptiles, might be due to a sort of “racial memory” (though I believe “order memory” might be a more accurate term) gradually hardwired into us from our earliest mammalian ancestors’ having to cope with dinosaurs. The concept receives serious consideration in The Dragons of Eden by Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan.

    I don’t know if there is any more evidence for this hypothesis than the Creation “Museum” presents for its opinion, but it certainly is a lot more plausible, if only because it does not require ignoring mountains of physical evidence to the contrary.

    ~David D.G.

  5. #5 Blake Stacey, OM
    June 28, 2007

    I know I’m not the first person to remark on this, but the story of St. George sounds an awful lot like the Greek myth of Perseus and Andromeda. The former (the hero) saved the latter (the princess) from a thorough devouring at the hands, er, jaws of the sea-monster Cetus.

    All those myths the world over, explained away as distortions of the “historical dinosaurs”. . . and such a double standard: clearly, our little storybook tells about what really happened, and everyone else — from the Chinese dragon-fancier to the modern paleontologist — is worshiping a false idol.

  6. #6 Warren
    June 28, 2007

    The origin of dragon myths is obvious. Ever look at a dinosaur’s skull, particularly a carnivorous variety?

    Southwestern American aborigines once believed in something called a “thunder beast”. They found large bones washed down in flash floods and assumed they came from these thunder beasts. The prehistoric mammal we call A href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brontotherium”>brontotherium today got its name from those very legends.

    Imagine being a peasant 1500 years ago and coming across a carnosaur skull in the wild. Big dang head, lots of teeth. What’re you gonna think it was?

    But one wouldn’t expect a goddishly-deranged YEC to be aware of any of this, and certainly not able to draw the simplest conclusion.

  7. #7 Carolina
    June 28, 2007

    Here are a few pictures of a T. rex’s skull. Do you see all of those pointy, razor-sharp teeth? Do you know what they were for? Eating plants. Obviously.

  8. #8 Carl Flygare
    June 28, 2007

    Ham asserts that humans and dinosaurs lived alongside one another and are mentioned in the bible – “The Flintstones” as documentary. From an evolutionary perspective they are. Isaiah mentions various feathered Theropod dinosaur descendents – such as eagles, sparrows, owls, ravens, and doves – that we know and enjoy today as birds.

    The Book of Job is offered as proof that Sauropod dinosaurs are also depicted. Job describes a large animal known as “Behemoth” which literally means beast or dumb beast. Here is the key passage: “Lo now, his strength is in his loins, and his force is in the navel of his belly. He moveth his tail like a cedar: the sinews of his stones are wrapped together. His bones are as strong pieces of brass; his bones are like bars of iron (Job 40:16-17 KJV).”

    Here’s a more accurate translation of the relevant text by Stephen Mitchell, who has published a definitive translation of The Book of Job (available on amazon.com:

    “Look: the power in his thighs, the pulsing sinews of his belly. His p**** stiffens like a pine; his t******** bulge with vigor.” The KJV translation utilizes euphemism to avoid stating the obvious – this passage describes a large male mammal during rutting season. Ken Ham mistakes sexual antics for Sauropod dinosaurs!

    Next time Ken should check the supposedly inerrant autographs, if he can find them.

  9. #9 JohnnieCanuck, FCD
    June 28, 2007

    So.

    Ancient people found fossilised dinosaur skulls and bones and invented dragon stories to explain them.

    Other ancient people copied down two versions of a creation myth in texts that were incorporated into the Bible.

    Scientists arrive at an explanation of the diversity of life, including fossils. This threatens the beliefs of very literal minded people.

    Now some of these people invent a connection between invented dragons and their invented creation myth.

    How inventive of them.

  10. #10 Mark Duigon
    June 28, 2007

    I find it remarkable that these people, supposed by many to be Biblical literalists, employ amazing creativity in convoluting scripture to explain dinosaurs and other phenomena.

  11. #11 Christopher Heard
    June 29, 2007

    As a biblical scholar, I find this sort of thing maddening. Mark Duigon has it right. Young-earth creationists and other fundamentalist types like to portray themselves to other religious folk as the (only) ones who take the Bible “seriously” or “literally,” but they don’t bother much with actually reading those texts on their own ancient terms. Instead, they basically quote-mine the Bible to support silly fantasies like fire-breathing dragons (did the video mention the perennial favorite analogy, the bombardier beetle)? A little responsible, contextual, historical-critical analysis would go a long way … and has, for a good many of us. But some folk seem determined to hold onto their cherished unscientific, but also only pseudo-biblical, imaginings–no matter how much violence they must do to good textual study or real science in order to achieve that end.

  12. #12 Gaines Johnson
    June 29, 2007

    Neither the Earth’s geology or the literal wording of Genesis support the claims of the Young Earth Creationists who are behind the monstrosity called the �Creation Museum�… In the interest of fairness to the Biblical facts there is an alternative interpretation of Genesis that refutes this nonsense (see http://www.kjvbible.org )

  13. #13 Heleen
    June 29, 2007

    “The First Fossil Hunters: Paleontology in Greek and Roman Times” by Adrienne Mayor gives a good impression of the interpretation of fossils as dragon (triceratops near the Altai Mountains) or cyclops (mammoth in Scilia).

    As to the fire spewing Leviathan, did the CretMus suggest what animal that would be, if dinosaur?

  14. #14 Adam
    June 29, 2007

    Long ago I read an exegesis of Job that reached the phallus-euphemism conclusion. I was persuaded. However, I recently read another exegesis that carefully argues the phallus-euphemism translation is shallow and incorrect, and that the actual meaning cannot be determined.

    There’s a controversy, said this second exegete. Teach the controversy.

    The phrase “teach the controversy” carries negative connotations for me. However, I don’t know who to believe. Does a purely textual analysis point to a mundane animal?

  15. #15 kai
    June 29, 2007

    The latest Swedish Bible translation, Bibel 2000, does say “his member is as mighty as the cedar” but notes for large parts of Job 40 that the original text cannot be made sense of, so it has simply been left untranslated.

  16. #16 Ex-drone
    June 30, 2007

    So when Adam was giving out names to “every beast of the field” (Gen 2:20), what names did he give to the dinosaurs? Did he create the Latin-based Linnaean taxonomy?

  17. #17 Ex-drone
    June 30, 2007

    Some scriptural justification is then provided for the idea that dinosaurs were present on the ark.

    Apparently, the ark was built along the lines of a government-run project. Imagine how much bigger the ark had to be and all the extra wood that was required for the boat to hold all those pairs of enormous sauropod “kinds,” only to have dinosaurs killed off shortly afterwards.

  18. #18 Mark Duigon
    June 30, 2007

    …what names did he give to the dinosaurs?

    “Animals”–dinosaurs belong to the animal “kind,” trilobites belong to the “bug” kind, and spirifer brachiopods belong to the “seashell” kind.

  19. #19 Saros
    August 13, 2007

    Question: Are these not the same people that insist on a literal reading of the bible?
    It intrests me that they so easily dismiss the story of St George as a mere fable yet completely refuse to even think about extending it to any other parts of their precious word.

  20. #20 k?z oyunlar?
    May 3, 2008

    There’s a controversy, said this second exegete. Teach the controversy.

  21. #21 assos
    May 4, 2008

    There’s a controversy, said this second exegete. Teach the controversy.

  22. #22 evdeneve
    June 23, 2009

    Where did I see the speculation that the behemoth’s huge “tail” is a mistranslation and/or euphemism for its…um…intromittent organ?

  23. #23 Tim Morris
    January 3, 2010

    evdeneve – I dont think it takes a genius to see that a “tail” can be just about anything sexual, as americans say a “hot piece of tail”.

    And I always knew the behemoth sounded like an elephant, as “his nose poketh through snares” refers to his trunk, clearly.

  24. #24 Darlene
    January 30, 2011

    Ever thought about why there is a such a huge gap between dinosaurs and humans? Why? Where ARE all the transitional species Darwin couldn’t find? Job’s Behemoth being a penis is as ridiculous as much of Freudian thought is considered today. Can bones really survive so intact for BILLIONS of years? Could it be that carbon dating and sedimentation layering as dating methods are WRONG? Wouldn’t be the first time scientific theory was wrong…the earth was once flat, blood letting was standard medical practice not so long ago, and so forth. Not that I have to be insistently literal on the bible, personally, but it wouldn’t be the first time science was off either, especially if the scientists were a bit biased and blatant in purpose to discredit the Bible.