So this week for Aleteia I reviewed The Croods, a movie I felt managed to pull a last minute save and extract itself from the near-omnipresent “children know best” theme found in most other animated features these days. Be warned, however, premier Catholic movie critic Steven D. Greydanus had very much the opposite reaction. But regardless of which side you choose, if there’s one thing we can all agree was missing from The Croods, it would probably be dinosaurs. Oh sure, I realize that since The Croods are an even more modern stone age age family than The Flinstones, they’ve got to be historically accurate and can’t have cavemen running around with sauropods. But still, weren’t cartoons much more fun when the facts didn’t matter…
Of course, there are some folks out there who believe the occasional mentions of dragons, leviathans, and behemoths in the bible indicate the possibility of dinosaur-like creatures running around in ancient times. The majority of modern theologians, however, tend to accept the current scientific theory that dinosaurs predated the appearance of humans and that those creatures in the bible were something else entirely.
Which leads to an interesting question for Christians, assuming current theories are correct, why did God bother creating dinosaurs to begin with? The short answer is, we just don’t know. From a pragmatic standpoint, it could just be simply that in order for a world to develop where humans could exist, maybe something like the dinosaurs were necessary to help get the place ready. Heck, there’s still things floating around today that we haven’t discovered yet, but they’re part of an ecosystem somewhere. So there’s that idea.
But since God works on any number of levels simultaneously, Michelle Arnold, apologist for Catholic Answers, postulates some possible philosophical reasons behind the existence of dinosaurs, notions such as:
- “Dinosaurs teach that there is such a thing as universal death, which is one of St. Thomas Aquinas's five arguments for the existence of God.”
- “Dinosaurs teach the possibility of life after death. There may be no dinosaurs currently inhabiting our world, but, in a certain sense, they live on today -- in our imaginations, in our scientific studies, in our hope that we may one day see such extraordinary creatures in the next life.”
- “The existence of dinosaurs forces believers to more deeply understand their religion and thus more deeply understand God's hand at work in the world. Questions of the creation of the universe are thrown into a new light and we are forced to re-assess the merit of apparently simple understandings of divine revelation through the Church and the Bible.”
- “The existence of dinosaurs forces unbelievers to re-assess their rejection of God that may be based at least partly upon the fact that they have not seen him with their own eyes. The fact that there are created beings that we know existed only because of the remnants of their lives that have been uncovered point to the existence of a God who can be known through the use of reason if one is willing to look at the "fossil record" of creation.”
So we’ve got lots of ideas, but in the end, the real reason for dinosaurs is just another one of those mysteries we probably won’t get the answer to while we’re in this world. And that’s fine. After all, the Catechism reminds us that there are “insurmountable limits that man, being a creature, must freely recognize and respect with trust.” And when those instances pop up, “Man is [to be] dependent on his Creator, and subject to the laws of creation and to the moral norms that govern the use of freedom.”
And as for my desire to see men (or pink panthers for that matter) square off against dinosaurs, well, we’ll always have Jurassic Park won’t we?
Cool! And yes, cartoons were way better when they weren't troubled with facts.
For the dinophiles, if you've got half an hour to kill, there's a great post of dino art from the art editor of TOR books:
If you've never navigated through a panicked phone call with an evangelical, non-denominational Christian about how to explain dinosaurs to two children who are currently fascinated by a surprise traveling exhibit at the local science center, you haven't lived yet.
"there's a great post of dino art from the art editor of TOR books"
I love that they included an illustration from an old dino-riders toy. How is there no dino-riders movie yet?
"If you've never navigated..."
Rather than experience that pain personally, I will gratefully experience it vicariously through you.
I suspect God created dinosaurs to give countless hours of delight and pleasure to billions of children, who revel in the knowledge of their existence. I know I did.
Don't even get me started! Once when I was sick my parents bought me a color-it-yourself dinosaur poster and I must have spent weeks detailing that thing until the markers ran dry. Loved dinosaurs!
I agree with Anonymous! Endless hours of enjoyment were given to my children by the existence of dinosaurs. Their Grandpa took them to the local museum which had a "Living Dinosaur" exhibit involving moving mechanical dinosaurs. We all look fondly on those hours spent thinking about dinosaurs. My oldest did an award-winning kindergarden science project by comparing the area of a dinosaur fossil footprint (calculated by drawing circles on the imprint, being too young for algebra) to an elephant footprint. We went to the local zoo, where the zookeeper kindly measured the back footprint of an elephant to compare. Knowing the weight of the elephant in comparison to its footprint, and using the same equation to compute the weight of the dinosaur, we came up with a surprisingly accurate weight for the dinosaur.
That's a cool zookeeper. Trying to imagine the zoo here in Atlanta doing that and I just can't see it.
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