SWAU Dinosaur Science Museum

I’d like to talk about a bit of an odd duck among the various small natural history museums near the Dallas/Fort Worth area. The Dinosaur Science Museum, located on the campus of Southwestern Adventist University, managed to escape my notice for a time until a friend of mine brought it to my attention. Now, Adventists are somewhat notorious as the Protestant denomination that ultimately birthed the modern incarnation of young earth creationism, so I initially regarded it with a bit of skepticism, expecting some roadside attraction with a primarily missiological bent.

A display on the process of fossil survey & excavation, as well as one of the many lab spaces visitors can see on their tour.

I was pleasantly surprised to find they apparently run a very respectable fossil prep lab here. A couple fiberglass dinosaur statues may greet visitors in the lobby, but the rest of the experience is entirely fossil-focused, with little to no fluff. Not only can visitors see numerous cabinets full of fossils, but there are also displays on the process of excavation, the nature of the fossil beds this institution has opened dig sites in, and numerous active lab spaces with the researchers work laid out in full display of the guests. Towards the back, visitors can even look into the collections area, which houses a large number of fossils big and small which far outstrips what they actually have room to display.

Two angles on what you might call the museum’s “main hall”, prominently featuring several Hell Creek taxa such as Anzu, “Nanotyrannus“, & a giant Edmontosaurus leg. Assorted other fossils line the ways, such as trilobites & other such small fossils.

According to most of the information on their past digs, as well as the fossils on display, this museum appears to focus primarily on Late Cretaceous fossils & deposits. A large site map (which I somehow forgot to take a picture of) shows where various taxa were discovered in the formation they have done most of their excavations in, and they do a great job of explaining how sedimentary and taphonomic clues can tell us something about the paleoenvironment when these animals were alive.

The dedication plaque behind this Asilisaurus skeleton mentions that the museum was established with the intent of performing science consistent with “Biblical creation”, while the description on Asilisaurus‘s own information panel claims that it is contrary to the expectations of “evolutionary scientists”.

It seems as though they do some excellent work here, and didn’t see anything to suggest that they cut any corners in their research. I did notice a single plaque mentioning something about doing science “consistent with Biblical creation”, though there’s potentially a lot of wiggle room that statement. Is it a token statement to placate the donors? A hint of ulterior motives? I don’t know, but I am confident in stating that if nothing else, they absolutely do more “real science” here than at the nearby Institute for Creation Research Discovery Center (a place which I DID find to prioritize evangelistic products over any actual serious research).

Just to underscore that, whether or not they hold YEC beliefs, they remain open to the scientific literature, I ended up finally checking it out for the first time because of a guest paleontologist lecture series they were hosting in one of the campus auditoriums. In fact, the particular host on the day of my visit, Jonathan Hobart, gave a presentation on ceratopsian diversity & evolution, something you definitely wouldn’t ever see at any of the creationist museums I’ve ever visited.

As a fun bit of historical trivia: after I finished my tour and began to head home, the original main entry gate to the campus happened to catch my eye. This stone entryway happens to be built out of petrified wood sourced from Dinosaur Valley State Park further down the highway, which was a fun little bow to wrap up my visit with.

I absolutely recommend giving the SWAU Dinosaur Science Museum a visit. While they are a small institution you can make your way through in less than an hour, they pack a lot of quality public education into that place. Beyond simply teaching about the dinosaurs themselves, this museum does an excellent job demonstrating the actual process of paleontology, and how we come to know what we know. Whether or not they withhold acceptance of certain conclusions, I am satisfied that they at least really put the work in, and they earned this Dino Dad’s approval as a result.


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