One of the ongoing debates in the scientific community for many years has been the relationship of modern birds and the dinosaurs of the past. In 1870, Thomas Henry Huxley wrote a treatise Further Evidence of the Affinity between the Dinosaurian Reptiles and Birds. Huxley was studying a dinosaur named Compsognathus and Archaeopteryx which was a bird discovered in 1861. The two were about the same size and there seemed to be very little difference between the bone structures of the two. For the next 140 years scientific debates would go on about whether the two were related. The word “dinosaur” is from Greek words for “terrible/fearful lizard” and that suggested a cold-blooded, slow, plodding creature. Birds are warm-blooded and anything but slow. The dinosaurs known in Huxley’s time did not have wishbones, fused clavicles, or air pockets in their bones which are typical of modern birds.

In the 1960s new evidence began to deny some of the views of dinosaurs. Fused clavicles were found in some dinosaurs, and Deinonychus and Velociraptor bones were found to contain air pockets. In 1996 in China a fossil was found of a dinosaur that had a birdlike skull, a long tail, and impressions of feathers. The specimen was named Sinosauropteryx and was just the first of a large number of specimens that have been found with feathers. A fossil named Confuciusornis has now predated Archaeopteryx and is the first form to have a beak and tail vertebrae that would support feathers.

One final note needs to be made about this evidence. Feathers can serve a variety of purposes. We know about the use of feathers in flight where the feathers overlap and are hooked together to provide a wind collector. Feathers can also be used to strain bugs out of the air. They can be used to shelter from rain, for insulation against heat or cold, and for display in attracting a mate. Pigments have recently been found in some feathers so we know the colors of some of these ancient animals, and some of them must have been incredibly beautiful. For those interested in reading more on this subject we would recommend an article titled “Dinosaur’s Living Descendants” in Smithsonian, December 2010, page 54.

For those who believe the Bible to be true, this flood of new information is not only fascinating, but encouraging. One important point to remember when studying the Hebrew texts of the Bible is that there is an economy of language in the biblical account. There are said to be some 35 million volumes of scientific material in the Library of Congress on the creation of the earth. That 35 million volumes of scientific material is covered in 31 verses of Genesis 1 and the first three verses of Genesis 2. Of the 26 million or so different forms of life that have existed on this planet, only a very few are discussed in scripture.

That being said, what we find is that what the Bible does say about the history of life on this planet is incredibly accurate. Christian fundamentalists have tried desperately to squeeze dinosaurs into the words used in Genesis and Job. Words like “behemah” in Genesis 24 and Job 40:15 cannot be twisted to include dinosaurs because they refer to ungulates and there were animals living at the time those verses were written that fit the description very well. (There is a detailed study of these words in our booklet God’s Revelation in His Rocks and His Word, which can be read on our doesgodexist.org website.) The Hebrew word translated “kind” in the Genesis account is the word “min.” In 1 Corinthians 15:39 there is a direct definition which is used throughout the whole Bible.

In Genesis 1 the same four groupings are used. Verse 20a refers to the flesh of fish, and 20b to the flesh of birds. Verses 24 and 25 refers to the “beasts of the earth” and mentions cattle. Verse 26 – 27 refers to man and spells out man’s uniqueness. In the flood account of Genesis 6 and 7 the same groupings are used. We should point out that reptiles are not included, nor arthropods, worms, or bacteria. There is an economy of language, but the animals directly essential to man’s existence are all included. Someone might suggest that “creeping thing” in Genesis 1:24 – 25 would include these animals, but in Genesis 9:3 the same Hebrew word (remes) is used to describe an animal that the Hebrews could eat, and they could not eat reptiles. The word would refer to the smaller mammals that they were allowed to eat such as sheep or goats. It is the intent of both Genesis 1 and Genesis 6 to reveal the animals that man was dependent upon, not to discuss the 26 million forms of life that have lived.

If dinosaurs are birds (or visa versa), then they fall into the “flesh of birds” category that the Bible gives, and the Bible was correct in not assigning a separate taxon to them. This wider view of classification is becoming accepted in the scientific community as a form of cladism. When you look at the errors that the Bible writers could have made in how they assigned groupings to living things, it is incredible that they gave an explanation that made sense to the ignorant shepherds of Moses’ day and yet stand up well in light of the new discoveries of science in the twenty-first century.
--John N. Clayton

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