Christian apologetics is the defense of biblical faith. A popular line of reasoning for some apologists concerns the coexistence of dinosaurs and human beings. If the sequence of events in creation in Genesis 1 is to be understood properly, then human beings and dinosaurs coexisted. Proof of this, it is claimed, can be seen as recently as a thousand years ago.
The evidence marshaled to support this argument includes petroglyphs, carvings, and artifacts bearing images claimed to be dinosaurs. These pictures litter the Internet. Unfortunately, this evidence is exceedingly weak and almost always involves some degree of misinterpretation. The meme to the right is a perfect example of this. Let’s break down the individual photos in the picture.
The top line includes a picture of a figurine of a man riding a Triceratops. It appears to be one of the dinosaur figurines of Acámbaro, Mexico. This hoard of figurines, many of which were procured by a German fellow named Waldemar Julsrud, contains many examples of humans and animals. Some of the figurines look remarkably similar to dinosaurs. Allegations of forgery and deception mar the history of these artifacts. Experts have determined that at least some of them were created in the 20th century.
The other figure in the top line is a carving of an animal found on a Cambodian temple wall. Some identify it as a stegosaurus, mostly due to the decorative elements along the top of the carving that only vaguely resemble the dermal plates found on the back of this distinctive type of dinosaur. The remaining anatomical features—particularly the body, head, and tail of the animal—do not match those of a stegosaurus. It also lacks the characteristic tail spikes. Overall, it more closely resembles a rhinoceros, boar, or pangolin.
The elements claimed to be the dermal fins of a stegosaur should probably be interpreted as decorative flourishes, similar to those found in other carvings of animals in the same temple. If it were a dinosaur, we would have to ask why artists failed to include other species of dinosaurs in the surrounding art. The meme contains three more depictions of the same carving in the third and fourth lines.
The second line includes the infamous Ica stones, which experts have largely discredited. A physician named Javier Cabrera Darquea collected thousands of stones bearing surprisingly accurate images of dinosaurs from a farmer in the Ica province of Peru. The farmer later admitted that he had created the stones by carving them with a dental tool and baking them in cow dung to give it a patina. The biggest problem is that of provenance; no one has ever seen the cave where these tens of thousands of stones were allegedly found. It is a closely guarded secret which naturally invites suspicion, as the stones cannot be accurately dated without some kind of archaeological context.
Some of the Ica stones appear to demonstrate an advanced knowledge of astronomy and medicine. They include examples of telescopes and surgical procedures that seem to include a tracheotomy and what is clearly a heart transplant (you can see pictures of them here). After a four-year investigation, Spanish investigator Vicente Paris concluded that the stones were fraudulent. Included in his evidence was the claim that the stones showed traces of modern paint and abrasives (specifically, granules from a piece of sandpaper). Paris also notes that one of the neighbors claimed that Dr. Cabrera provided local manufacturers with drawings to engrave on the stones and that one of them had pencil markings the creator forgot to erase. One stone had a picture of the crucified Christ, with the nail placed incorrectly in the center of the palm. Paris also states that two geologists from the University of Tucumán in Argentina concluded that the engraved stones had been produced with modern instruments.
It appears that some of the stones which do not depict extinct animals are, in fact, genuine. Those that do sometimes include what appear to be anatomical inaccuracies, such as the wrong number or fingers or toes, incorrect posture, or depiction of dinosaurs suckling their young (which only mammals do). And the stones depict species of dinosaur not known to have existed in South America. Further, the idea that ancient man had the ability to perform a heart transplant but decided against recording anything about it outside of a few pictures scratched out on some rocks is simply unbelievable. We might also point out that the stones conveniently contain no text (did I mention that the farmer who admitted to creating them was illiterate?)
The last image of the second line is the Two Dog Palette, which dates to the late fourth millennium BC in Egypt. Palettes—including the more famous Narmer Palette—include a circular space in the center used for grinding pigments for makeup. Both of these palettes include two creatures known as serpopards, a peculiar type of creature that sometimes appears in Egyptian art. These imaginary animals look like leopards with very long necks, resembling a serpent (and thus the portmanteau, “serpopard”). Upon close inspection, the animals are entirely feline except for their necks. In other words, they are not dinosaurs. You can get a closer look at the Two Dog Palette here, and a close-up of the Narmer Palette here.
The last two lines include four images, three of which are the supposed stegosaurus in Cambodia. The last I have not been able to identify.
The most troubling aspect of this meme is that the caption claims the civilizations responsible for producing these images are “Thousands of years old.” Only one of these objects seems to be more than a few hundred years old, and it does not depict dinosaurs. This piece of evidence is so bad that I have no option but to conclude one of two things. First, an innocently naïve but irresponsible believer may have created the meme. Alternatively, a non-Christian may have purposely designed this meme to make Christians look foolish. I lean toward the latter.
Christians should never settle for bad evidence. Christian faith will not stand or fall on one argument or artifact. We should be content with the fact that that body of evidence argues for the existence of God, the reliability of Scripture, and the reasonableness of faith.
This article has been edited to include references to other sources where readers may explore the information for themselves.