Baby Dinosaurs on the Ark?

I have mentioned before my background as a former young earth creationist. I of course have always harbored a deep love for dinosaurs as well, but this passion found itself at odds with the worldview handed down to me. Dinosaurs had to be reverse engineered into a pre-approved framework, which sent me down a years-long rabbit hole of “creation science” that drove me far off track from developing my interest into anything useful. As I came to find, however, much of the underlying mentality of creationism does not naturally follow from the material at hand.

Janet Kellogg Ray seeks to shine a light on matters with her new book Baby Dinosaurs on the Ark? – The Bible and Modern Science and the Trouble of Making It All Fit. As she discovered from her years of teaching, many people have a fundamentally inadequate understanding of what the theory of evolution even describes, or the implications of adopting a young earth creationist perspective. A good portion of the book then simply describes the basics of the competing worldviews at play, and a detailed beginner’s guide to the most contested aspects of evolutionary theory. While I have already long since sifted through many of these topics on my own, I greatly appreciate it for the invaluable resources it provides for those who have not cared to study the topic so carefully. Had I received this book earlier in life, I probably could have saved myself years of misdirection.

Speaking of misdirection, if you came here expecting to see baby dinosaurs, I’m afraid the title Baby Dinosaurs on the Ark? merely refers to a common creationist trope, and the topic does not take up much of the book. If you’d like small saurians, I can recommend the Spanish-language Dinosaurios Bebés!

A particularly enlightening insight comes from Ray’s analogy to an infamous pair of $425 pre-destroyed jeans once offered by Nordstom. The lovably down-to-earth “Dirty Jobs” host Mike Rowe offered a particularly biting quip: “Finally – a pair of jeans that look like they have been worn by someone with a dirty job… made for people who don’t.” Ray compares this to the overly high mental price of young earth creationism, in which apparent history is intentionally added by a designer where none actually exists. From shared traits that comfortably fit into neatly nested hierarchies to the consistent repeated sequences of fossils throughout the world, Ray effectively demonstrates how we know what we know about the history of the earth. It all relies on basic, easily testable science, which cumulatively imply a conclusion that creationists claim is a falsehood. Though they claim otherwise, the only logical conclusion suggests a deception intentionally built into the universe by the creator.

In truth, no creationist holds their beliefs for scientific reasons alone, including those associated with supposedly scientific institutions like the ICR Discovery Center. Even seemingly non-committal “Intelligent Design” theorists such as Michael Behe have an a priori commitment to a particular version of a creator, and design their arguments in such a way so as to attempt to force a “failure” of science and open a hole into which they can plausibly stuff a god. As Ray describes it, this has the effect of putting God on constant retreat as proper science gradually explains each supposed gap.

Images from my visit to the ICR Discovery Center in Dallas, Texas. Though they try to convince visitors that science supports their claims, the experience as a whole leaves one with the distinct impression of a surface-level apologetics presentation rather than an air of rigorously researched scholarly review.

This creates the conditions at the true root of creationism: a fear of encroaching atheism. Resistance to evolution arises from an understanding of God that uses Him as a solution to a puzzle, not as the sovereign ruler of even those processes that we now understand. It therefore makes sense that creation science both arises from and perpetuates a culture of fear towards natural sciences in Christianity. I could have spared myself much cognitive dissonance had I not had to overcome this barrier in my own mind, and I am ashamed to say I initially hid my eventual acceptance of evolution from my wife out of fear that I would cause her anguish over the state of my soul.

Ray points out however that nobody argues for a “physical heavenly storehouses” model to explain the weather, or a “uterine knitting needles” theory of pregnancy, despite Biblical language on these topics. Resistance to evolutionary theory likewise comes from a place of unnecessary suspicion. Many prominent Christians have led by example in remaining committed to their faith while at the forefront of evolutionary research, such as Francis Collins, director of the Human Genome Project and the “theistic evolution” organization Biologos, or Mary Schweitzer, who left an anti-evolutionary worldview even as she conducted her famous research on dinosaur soft tissue that creationists try to claim for themselves.

“Dang it Mrs. Noah! Why did we decide to bring Baby Dinosaurs on the Ark? They’re attracting azhdarchids!”

I wish I could have come across Baby Dinosaurs on the Ark? earlier in life. I would still certainly have had questions about the specifics of evolutionary theory and its theological implications, but I would have at least been opened to the possibility of discovering the real answers to those questions, perhaps coming across resources such as Biologos or God’s Word or Human Reason? far sooner than I ultimately did. I highly recommend this book to anyone questioning a young earth worldview, especially those who might fear that such questioning inherently results in atheism. It makes for a friendly yet firm resource to counter misconceptions about science and theology, earning it my Dino Dad Stomp of Approval!

I definitely recommend checking out God’s Word or Human Reason? If you have more specific questions, and Dinosaur Devotions if you are interested in one of the only Christian-themed children’s dinosaur books devoid of any explicit message of young earth creationism.

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