Monday, October 27, 2008

What Happened to the Dinosaurs

Author: Ruel Hinaloc

PALAEONTOLOGY is the study of fossils, and fossils are the remains of life from past ages. But as one paleontologist said, it is “a highly speculative and opinionated science.” This is evident regarding dinosaurs. Listing some speculations as to what happened to them, Princeton scientist G. L. Jepson stated:

“Authors with varying competence have suggested that dinosaurs disappeared because the climate deteriorated . . . or that the diet did. . . . Other writers have put the blame on disease, parasites, . . . changes in the pressure or composition of the atmosphere, poison gases, volcanic dust, excessive oxygen from plants, meteorites, comets, gene pool drainage by little mammalian egg eaters, . . . cosmic radiation, shift of Earth’s rotational poles, floods, continental drift, . . . drainage of swamp and lake environments, sunspots.” The Riddle of the Dinosaur.

It is apparent from such speculations that scientists are not able, with any certainty, to answer the question: What happened to the dinosaurs?

Sudden Extinction Theory

A more recent theory was put forth by a father and son team, Luis and Walter Alvarez. Walter Alvarez discovered, outside the town of Gubbio in central Italy, a curious thin, red layer of clay sandwiched between two limestone layers in the rock formation. The lower layer of limestone yielded an abundance of fossils. The top layer was almost devoid of fossils, leading the geologists to conclude that life suddenly disappeared and that the thin, red layer of clay had some connection with the extinction.

Analysis revealed that the clay was rich in iridium (a metal), 30 times richer than the concentration normally found in rocks. They knew that such high concentrations of this rare element could come only from the earth’s core or from sources outside the earth. They concluded that the iridium was deposited by a huge asteroid that hit the earth, causing the sudden extinction of the dinosaurs.

After the discovery of the iridium enriched clay at Gubbio, similar deposits were found in other parts of the world. Did this corroborate the asteroid hypothesis? Some scientists remain skeptical. But as the book The Riddle of the Dinosaur acknowledges, the Alvarez hypothesis added “fresh yeast to the study of extinction and evolution.” And paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould admits that it could diminish “the importance of competition between species.”

Commenting on this new theory and the apparently sudden extinction of the dinosaurs, one science writer admits: “They could shake the foundations of evolutionary biology and call into question the current concept of natural selection.”

University of Arizona scientist David Jablonski concludes that ‘for many plants and animals, extinction was abrupt and somehow special. Mass extinctions are not merely the cumulative effects of gradual dyings. Something unusual happened.’ Their arrival was also abrupt. Scientific American observes: “The sudden appearance of both suborders of the pterosaurs without any obvious antecedents is fairly typical of the fossil record.” That is also the case with dinosaurs. Their relatively sudden appearance and disappearance contradicts the commonly accepted view of slow evolution.

The Dating of Dinosaurs

Dinosaur bones are regularly found in lower earth layers than are human bones, leading many to conclude that they belong to an earlier time period. Geologists call this time the Mesozoic period and subdivide it into the Cretaceous, Jurassic, and Triassic periods. The time frames used for these periods are on the order of tens of millions of years. But has this been established with any certainty?

One method being used to measure the age of fossils is called radiocarbon dating. This dating system measures the rate of decay of radioactive carbon from the point of death of the organism. “Once an organism dies, it no longer absorbs new carbon dioxide from its environment, and the proportion of the isotope falls off over time as it undergoes radioactive decay,” states Science and Technology Illustrated.

However, there are severe problems with the system. First, when the fossil is considered to be about 50,000 years old, its level of radioactivity has fallen so low that it can be detected only with great difficulty. Second, even in more recent specimens, this level has fallen so low that it is still extremely difficult to measure accurately. Third, scientists can measure the present-day rate of radioactive carbon formation but have no way of measuring carbon concentrations in the distant past.

So whether they use the radiocarbon method for dating fossils or other methods, such as employing radioactive potassium, uranium, or thorium, for dating rocks, scientists are unable to establish the original levels of those elements through ages of time. Thus, professor of metallurgy Melvin A. Cook observes: “One may only guess these concentrations [of radioactive materials], and the age results thus obtained can be no better than this guess.” That would especially be so when we consider that the Flood of Noah’s day over 4,300 years ago brought enormous changes in the atmosphere and on earth.

Dartmouth College geologists Charles Officer and Charles Drake further add doubt to the accuracy of radioactive dating. They state: “We conclude that iridium and other associated elements were not deposited instantaneously . . . but rather that there was an intense and variable influx of these constituents during a relatively short geologic time interval on the order of 10,000 to 100,000 years.” They argue that the breakup and movement of the continents disrupted the entire globe, causing volcanic eruptions, blocking sunlight and fouling the atmosphere. Certainly, such disruptive events could change radioactivity levels, thus distorting results from modern-day radioactive clocks.

The Genesis Account and Dinosaurs

While the radioactive dating method is innovative, it is still based on speculation and assumption. In contrast, the Bible account in the first chapter of Genesis simply states the general order of creation. It allows for possibly thousands of millions of years for the formation of the earth and many millenniums in six creative eras, or “days,” to prepare the earth for human habitation.

Some dinosaurs (and pterosaurs) may indeed have been created in the fifth era listed in Genesis, when the Bible says that God made “flying creatures” and “great sea monsters.” Perhaps other types of dinosaurs were created in the sixth epoch. The vast array of dinosaurs with their huge appetites would have been appropriate considering the abundant vegetation that evidently existed in their time. Genesis 1:20-24.

When the dinosaurs had fulfilled their purpose, God ended their life. But the Bible is silent on how he did that or when. We can be sure that dinosaurs were created by Jehovah for a purpose, even if we do not fully understand that purpose at this time. They were no mistake, no product of evolution. That they suddenly appear in the fossil record unconnected to any fossil ancestors, and also disappear without leaving connecting fossil links, is evidence against the view that such animals gradually evolved over millions of years of time. Thus, the fossil record does not support the evolution theory. Instead, it harmonizes with the Bible’s view of creative acts of God.

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