I Believed That Dinosaurs Still Existed…

The Friendly Atheist is shocked that some creationists use Nessie as proof of creationism.

Just when you think you’ve heard it all.

I want everyone reading this to take a moment to compose yourself.  This is going to be an extremely serious discussion topic.  Because the Fundamentalists have seized the Loch Ness Monster.

We’re all familiar with this photo of Nessie, right?

Here she is in all of her glory.  Totally not fake.  Totally not a piece of plastic wood attached to a toy submarine.

So sure, it’s pretty darn unlikely that there is a monster living in Loch Ness.

But Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) doesn’t let a little thing like “no good evidence” stop them!  ACE is a fundamentalist Christian curriculum used in private and home schools.  And (surprise!) they are a bit dubious about evolution.

Read with me this excerpt from their “biology” textbook:

Are dinosaurs alive today? Scientists are becoming more convinced of their existence. Have you heard of the ‘Loch Ness Monster’ in Scotland? ‘Nessie’ for short has been recorded on sonar from a small submarine, described by eyewitnesses, and photographed by others. Nessie appears to be a plesiosaur.

So when scientists all agree that the most likely and widely supported explanation for the diversity of life on Earth is evolution by natural selection, the fundies are all “AHHH! Conspiracy!  You are repressing my ability to pray with all of your science mumbo jumbo!”… but when a couple of people wander off the beaten path and hypothesize that maybe it’s not outside of the realm of possibilities that some kind of water-dwelling creature could be residing in Loch Ness, they just jump all over that.

So yes, The Friendly Atheist is shocked. But for me growing up, well, talking about how the Loch Ness Monster was actually a dinosaur, and how the existence of dinosaurs today disproves evolution, was as normal as going to grandma’s house or mom making chocolate chip cookies.

And it wasn’t just Nessie. We heard stories of dinosaur sightings in the Congo and the Amazon. And then there was that whale carcass pulled from the water in Japan a few years ago that initially looked like a dead pleiosaur rather than simply a very rotted whale. We grabbed onto those stories and put credit by them. There were still dinosaurs in the world.

Now you may think this was sort of an odd thing to believe. How did this fit with everything else, you ask? Nicely, actually.

See, we believed that every species living or extinct today was represented on the Ark, including dinosaurs. Then, after the flood there was a (short) ice age. It lasted about two hundred years. During this period many species, including most of the dinosaurs, went extinct. After all, the climate changed after the flood (including the makeup of the air itself), the vegetation, the temperature, etc., and this meant that many species of dinosaurs simply weren’t equipped to survive. But some did.

You know the story of St. George and the dragon? Well, we were taught that these stories of dragons were based on a simple reality – even during the Middle Ages humans still fought the occasional left over dinosaur. So all those dragon stories? Yeah, those were about humans fighting dinosaurs. And like I said – the Amazon, the Congo, Loch Ness – we believed that some of those dinosaurs still existed.

Why, you ask? Well, it’s important to remember that we saw this as a strike against evolution. After all, dinosaurs were supposed to have died out millions of years ago, at least if the theory of evolution has it right. Therefore if we found a dinosaur alive today, we believed, an actual real dinosaur, that would thus prove evolution wrong and prove that the earth was young.

The Friendly Atheist may be surprised, but I’m not. Growing up, the idea that dinosaurs lived alongside human beings was as normal as apple pie. (And yes, through the use of vouchers, the ACE curriculum he quotes from is now being paid for with taxpayer dollars in some states.)

Here are some links.

Any Time I Hear Someone Say "Traditional Marriage"
Red Town, Blue Town
Andrée Seu Peterson's Appalling Column on Bisexuality
A Letter from Hell, and Self-Reinforcing Beliefs
About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • http://sarahoverthemoon.com Sarah Moon

    I had the same thoughts when I saw this going around. I remember learning that Nessie was a dinosaur and that descriptions of animals in Job were also dinosaurs. That dinosaurs still existed in the deepest, darkest jungles and therefore evolution is fake. Oh, those were the days.

    I also learned that the ark was somewhere on a mountain in Turkey and that the Turkish government wouldn’t let anyone go to the mountain because it didn’t want anyone to prove the Bible true. Anyone else hear that? bahaha.

    • Darren

      Ah, yes the Ark on Mount Ararat. I recall one story, I suspect I heard it at a Youth for Christ meeting, about how a brave band of Christian archeologists had actually found the ark, just laying there on top of the mountain, but they ran short of supplies, or had bad weather, or something. They left the site to resupply or wait out the storm. Before the archeologists could make it back to the Ark, the Turkish government got wind of their activities, arrested them, confiscated their photographic evidence, samples, and gear, then kicked them out of the country.

      • Mike

        “Christian Archeologists” isn’t *quite* an oxymoron, but it’s awfully close.

  • Comrade Svilova

    The fact that taxpayers are paying for education with these curricula is depressing, to put it mildly.

    • Michelle

      How are taxpayers paying for this? Homeschoolers and/or Christian schools are the people using these materials, not public school systems. I am not sure how tax dollars come into this discussion at all.

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

        One word: vouchers.

  • http://www.cleverbadger.net Jay

    I recall a lot of lake-monster stories in the early/mid 1970′s that typically put a plesiosaur in the starring role, but I don’t recall them being held up specifically as anti-evolution evidence (but I grew up in a fairly liberal Catholic church and public schools, so perhaps that’s not unexpected). What I do find interesting, in hindsight, is that my parents never seemed to have any issue with evolution or with the Earth being billions of years old, but they still found ways to cling to the assumed truth of Biblical stories like Adam & Eve and Noah’s flood. They would (and still do) layer on some metaphor, but even so, the amount of compartmentalization is amazing.

    In the mid-70′s, I had Kelly Seagraves’ “Search for Noah’s Ark” book, that made me think that the presence of the Ark (or something interesting) on Mt. Ararat was a settled question. There were a few TV shows and at least one theatrical film around that time flogging that notion as well.

    One thing that strikes me, though, is that the creationist crowd doesn’t seem to have figured out a way to spin “birds are dinosaurs” into a win yet…

    • kisekileia

      I believed for a while, while on my way out of evangelicalism, that evolution was largely correct, but that there was a definite moment when humans became truly human, i.e. with a soul and accountable to God. It’s hard to reconcile the idea of hominids gradually evolving into humans, with no real dividing point between non-human and human, and the idea that there’s a strict division between humans and animals which makes humans moral agents accountable to God and animals not moral agents.

      • http://www.cleverbadger.net Jay

        There’s a notion of ensoulment that occasionally crops up in (at least some) Catholic circles that is basically what you just said, and “Adam and Eve” were the first “true” humans.

        I was somewhat surprised a few years ago when I ran across a Catholic homeschool curriculum that contained an anti-evolution CD.

      • ArachneS

        Oh that doesn’t surprise me. The homeschool curriculum we had(Seton) was catholic and it had anti-evolution materials in its science course. I specifically remember one of the books that was part of the curriculum was called “Evolution: The Hoax Exposed”. It was very similar to what Libby describes of her home school evolution studies. It only brought up bits and pieces of Evolution in order to knock it down. It is rather common for ultra-trad catholics to reject evolution, so this curriculum is popular in these circles.

      • http://www.cleverbadger.net Jay

        The Seton curriculum is the one I was referring to, actually. Thanks for reminding me of the name.

  • machintelligence

    A large part of the “modern dinosaurs disprove evolution” argument is a result of the curious (and wrong) view of evolution that the fundamentalists have. It also leads to the inevitable question “If humans evolved from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?” But they don’t dare study the theory of evolution, because that “work of the devil” might contaminate their minds.

    • http://www.cleverbadger.net Jay

      “If children are descended from parents, why are there still parents?”

    • Conuly

      I know. It makes NO SENSE. It’s like they have step A and step Z, but none of the steps in between that would connect them.

  • http://www.ayoungmomsmusings.blogspot.com Melissa @ Permission to Live

    Yep. And there is one in the White river in Arkansas too. And then there are those dinosaur footprints with the human footprints mixed right in with them. Oh, and I heard the ark on mount ararat too, with the guys who discovered it getting kicked out and all their proof getting confiscated. I was also told that under the hill at golgatha, someone found a cave with the ark of the covanant in it, and blood that had dripped onto the top of it (as the old sacrifices would have indicated) through a crack from up above, and that they scraped the blood off the ark and tested it, and it was human blood, but with only 23 chromosones, which meant that it was Jesus’ blood dripped down from his crucifixion on the hill above, because he only had his mothers chromosones, since he was not concieved by a man but by god. I also remember being taught of many different cases of humans being swallowed whole by sharks or whales and later being caught by fisherman and found alive inside the creature that swallowed them, as proof of Jonah of course. According to one story, the time spent living inside of a shark turned one fisherman into an albino.

    • Teshumai

      Melissa, I wish someone had told me that story about the 23 chromosomes. When I was younger I asked our priest where Jesus had gotten his Y chromosome, since Mary wouldn’t have had one. He told me the Holy Spirit must have provided it, which I never found very satisfactory. I would have loved to know if the people who told you about the 23 chromosomes thought to give Jesuse a Y.

      • http://www.ayoungmomsmusings.blogspot.com Melissa@ Permission to Live

        I have no idea what their opinion would be on that. In fact, I was never taught about X and Y chromosones, or even that much about chromosones in general, until I was in my twenties and started investigated for myself. I remember being completely awed by that story of the blood though, it was like proof of the crucifixion and confirmation of the sacrificial system and everything.

      • machintelligence

        You have heard the expression: Jesus H. Christ? The H stands for haploid (1N number of chromosomes as opposed to 2N, the diploid, or normal number, for those non biologists out there). Haploid male/ diploid female is pretty much unique to bees and social insects, however. Humans with one X chromosome (but two of all the others) have Turner’s syndrome and appear to be females, although sterile.

      • Teshumai

        Jesus Haploid Christ! I love it!

    • Jenna

      Hey – I heard that same story about the ark and the special blood. We thought it was such amazing symbolism

    • Conuly

      Isn’t lying supposed to be one of those sin thingies? How do the people who make up these stories (not their gullible repeaters, but the authors) reconcile their actions with that fact?

      • Steve

        Lying for Jesus is explicitly allowed.

  • http://www.pasttensepresentprogressive.blogspot.com Latebloomer

    I remember at one creationist conference–I think it was by ICR, not AIG–they played an audio recording from an Amazon expedition and claimed that it might be the sound of a dinosaur, and that the natives in that area believed it was. At the time, I was beyond excited at the thought that they were about to discover a real live dinosaur and prove evolution wrong.

  • Contrarian

    But at the same time, how fucking awesome would it be to see a LIVE DINOSAUR? It would be like Jurassic Park,* except REAL. When I was a kid, I wanted this to be true too — not because it proved evolution wrong, but because FUCK YES.

    * Which is a great movie about how awesome science is and how fucking sweet it would be if we could bring dinosaurs back from extinction.

    • A Reader

      Dude, if there was a Jurassic Park, I would so be there. Like right now. And I would totally geek out, because FUCKING DINOSAURS!

      On a related note, the only reason I can accurately spell “dinosaur” is Ke$ha.

  • Bix

    I just saw an article about this in The Scotsman. The Scots are, to say the least, bemused.

  • smrnda

    I am kind of surprised how willing the fundamentalists are to latch onto unverifiable, world-of-mouth anecdotal reports on issues like this. Do they consciously realize that they’re basically taking hearsay on the level of ‘some fisherman claim that people get swallowed by fish and spit out’ and promoting it as if these were heavily substantiated facts – realizing that they’re being misleading – or do they just not understand what is meant by ‘evidence’ or ‘proof’ and actually think repeating some story ‘from somewhere in Africa’ is a valid way to make a point?

    I ask this since I’ve had conversations with fundamentalist and evangelical Christians, and rather than rational arguments I get lots of hand-waving, intuitive appeals. It’s made me wonder (along with results from a number of studies) whether or not religious people just have defective reasoning skills.

  • http://www.seditiosus.blogspot.com Seditiosus

    That one’s old news to me too. It was doing the rounds 20 years ago, when I was a kid. But I have to say, as an argument against evolution it’s pretty weak. Just finding a dinosaur wouldn’t disprove evolution any more than coelacanths do, and I could see that even when I was a child.

  • Amber

    Ironic, considering the finding of a live non-avian dinosaur wouldn’t dent evolution, much less disprove it (hello coelacanth, these sorts of things are already accounted for). Also the whole “we found the ark but those Muslims took the proof to keep the bible from being proven true!” thing amuses me. Consider the fact Muslims are also an Abrahamic religion and the bible is one of their holy books. They’d be thrilled to pieces to find the ark and make it known world wide.

  • Meggie

    My father (very liberal Christian) told me about wood being found above the tree line on Mt Ararat and that many Christians believed it was the ark. He asked me to think about other ways the timber might have got there and I learnt a lot about the history of Turkey through our conversations. He also challenged me to think about what faith meant and that if I had faith, did I need proof?

    As for Nessie, my Scottish parents say it is in the interest of everyone is Scotland to encourage the speculation as it increases tourism. They thought it was hilarious.

    • Meggie

      (Dad and I had those conversations when I was about 7-8 years old. I remember having a disagreement with my Sunday School teachers afterwards.)

  • mostlylurking

    Explain how live dinosaurs today would disprove anything? Rabbits in the Cambrian yes, but it doesn’t work the other way around! More dishonesty from the creationist crowd, what an utter shocker…

  • Rosa

    Libby, and other people raised Creationist, we visited some caves this summer and got the normal “these take 4,000 years/cm to form so you can imagine how old they are” and “so this dark shale under the limestone layer is about 50 million years old” and I wondered, do Creationists just skip these kinds of things? Or pre-explain them in Creationist terms? I know one of the caves we visited in Missouri, they had separate homeschooler tours that I kind of assumed were for YECs, but most places don’t have those.

    One of the park rangers was careful to say “if you believe the dating method…” and corrected himself a few times in ways that made me think he’d been challenged by Creationists and was being careful not to spark one of those discussions, too, and that made me really think about how you’d take kids on field trips and not challenge those beliefs.

    • machintelligence

      I don’t know if it is still the case, but you were once able to buy a book on (Noah’s) “Flood Geology” at the Grand Canyon visitor’s center.

  • Tonya Richard

    Even as a fundamentalist Christian, I always found creationism flawed. None of it ever made sense to me. I chose to believe it on faith. I loved science documentaries and would watch them constantly, telling myself, yes this makes perfect sense, but you can’t believe it, it goes against the word of God. I guess I believed the teaching that Satan had made everything so confusing so that we could be led astray. I know, crazy thinking! It is what you have to do to keep believing. My mom would always tell me watching that stuff would lead me astray LOL I guess it did! It really isn’t funny though, everything you have written, I remember being taught. It is really kind of sad : ( I am just thankful that what I read and watched wasn’t strictly censored. My parents became much more fundamental with their beliefs when I was an adult.