The Dino-Dilemma for YEC: Creation Conference Papers from 2018

The company line for YEC organizations like AiG, ICR, and the neglected step-child CMI, is that dinosaurs and birds are distinct “kinds.” Dinosaurs are reptiles. Birds are birds. Period. But, behind closed doors, Ark museums, and YouTube, are lengthy, creation-science journal articles, that say otherwise. Here is a brief overview of dinosaurs and birds in YEC literature.

Phillip J. Senter is an Orthodox Christian and a vertebrate paleontologist who specializes in dinosaurs. He is a gleeful foe for YEC science. He recently published a book called Fire-Breathing Dinosaurs that dismantles the theory that dinosaurs could breathe fire, using science. Senter also contributes regularly to Skeptical Inquirer to discount YEC theories. In 2010, he took the research of YEC scientist Todd Wood on baraminology (Multi-Dimensional scaling, statistics, etc.) Senter than applied the YEC scientist’s methods to dinosaurs and birds, where he successfully proved that some groups of dinosaurs overlapped with birds. Part 1 Senter Part 2 Senter

AiG responded with an article downplaying the methods that Todd Wood used. Dr. Wilson describes his “discomfort” with the conclusions of statistical baraminology here. However, throughout the 2010s Liaoning and other Chinese fossil hotspots continue to turn up birdlike dinosaur fossils. Wood and others begin to argue that it is possible God made some dinosaurs with feathers and that they might be related. AiG maintained its hard stance. See Here. But some highlights:

Complicating matters even further is the fact that true birds have been found among the Liaoning province fossils in the same layers as their presumed dinosaur ancestors.

Having a true bird appear before alleged feathered dinosaurs, no mechanism to change scales into feathers, no mechanism to change a reptilian lung into an avian lung, and no legitimate dinosaurs found with feathers are all good indications that dinosaurs didn’t turn into birds. The evidence is consistent with what the Bible teaches about birds being unique and created after their kinds.

But…here is where it gets interesting. In 2018, the International Conference on Creationism had two papers submitted which explored the relationships between dinosaurs and birds.

Dinosaur Feathers Reconsidered

While many creationists may be skeptical of inferring feathers when there are no feathers preserved, these predictors have proven to be an effective indicator of the existence of feathers.

Troodontids are remarkably bird-like dinosaurs. They were lightly-built and had large brains.

While most reports of feathers have come from theropod dinosaurs, they are not exclusive to them. While rare, filamentous integument has been documented in ornithischians.

While we have found that feathered dinosaurs could be broken into multiple created kinds, and others have found that birds can be broken into multiple created kinds, we could not find a way to separate theropod dinosaurs and birds overall into two groups based on their anatomy. Traditionally, creationists have considered dinosaurs and birds to be two discrete groups, easy to separate and identify. To most people, dinosaurs and birds appear to be vastly different animals. However, such a distinction can only be maintained by “cherry-picking” non-birdlike dinosaurs for comparison. For instance if sparrows, eagles, and flamingoes are compared with Triceratops and stegosaurus. A much different picture appears if we compare birds to the theropod dinosaurs.

The second paper is Dinosaur Baraminology and shares many of the similar conclusions, though not as potently put forward. It appears that the scientists who work behind the scenes for the various creation ministries are well-aware of the prevalence of feathered dinosaurs and their birdlike similarities. AiG has drawn a pretty big line in the sand with dinosaurs and birds, but they may move the goalposts. Perhaps the Ark Encounter will display a feathered theropod and use it as an example of the “common design” in animals.

tldr; YEC scientists KNOW that dinosaurs have feathers.

Where the Conflict Really Lies: Plantinga and Evolution

Alvin Plantinga has been a very influential person in my life and one of the most important Christian thinkers in the 20th and 21st centuries.

He is a Templeton award winner and he is credited by many as making Christian Theism an academically justifiable position in secular universities. CT article

For you budding YEC-theologians and students, I want to encourage you to read his book: Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism.

You do not need to agree with his eventual conclusions (he finds Christian theism to be compatible with evolution) to benefit from this book. In fact, in a CMI response to a reader Plantinga article CMI the YEC ministry argues that Plantinga successfully argues against “naturalism, defends miracles, and points out how science is rooted in the Christian worldview.”

You might be thinking- where does the conflict really lie?

As an analytical philosopher Plantinga is very succinct but thorough. So no matter how delicate I summarize it will fail to capture all of the nuances. Nevertheless, here is my attempt:

  1. There is alleged to be a conflict between theistic belief and evolutionary theory including the origin of life.
  2. According to theism, God made the world and people in his image.
  3. But it is perfectly reasonable to believe he did so by employing and directing genetic variation, natural selection, etc. Of course it does not mean that DID does that, just that he COULD do that.
  4. The conflict is that natural selection and evolution is unguided. But Plantinga argues that the claim that evolution is unguided is widely held- but is NOT part of current science. Instead, it is a metaphysical or theological “add-on.”
  5. Then he argues that Historical biblical criticism and evolutionary psychology appear superficially to be in conflict with Christian belief, but not defeaters. He also argues that the claim that God acts especially in the world does not conflict with science.
  6. He includes a big section on how science and religion actually work together. (Mathematics, predictability, data sets, etc.)
  7. He finishes with his primary thesis that, in fact, naturalism and science are where the conflict really lies. Plantinga’s argument concerns the reliability of cognitive faculties (perception, memory, introspection, etc.) and how there is a deep conflict between naturalism and evolutionary theory.

Plot Hole in Nathaniel Jeanson’s YEC Book

After an unfortunate fireworks incident Saturday where I broke my hand in five places (yes, I was that guy) I found myself with a LOT of time on my hands. Pun intended. I decided to binge the new face of YEC science: Nathaniel Jeanson. I watched the AiG videos linked earlier in the week featuring Jeanson. Viewed his debate with biologist Herman Mays and a follow-up video that Mays made. I read his journal articles on AiG (just search for them) and I bought the Kindle edition of his 2017 book Replacing Darwin and finished it today.

In everything that I read, there is one big, giant, plot-hole: Cenozoic mammal fossils

Cenozoic mammals are (according to “secular” science) thought to have lived within the last 66 million years. Think prehistoric mammoths, cave bears, giant sloths, etc.

All of the genetic examples that Jeanson provides for illustration (such as breeds of cows, breeds of dogs, or his favorite example the horse kind of zebras, horses, donkeys) are just above simple physical characteristics. We can get horses with red coats or stripes. We can get dogs with long fur or short curly hair. Like this picture here:

r/DebateEvolution - Giant Plot Hole in Jeanson's Theories

Page 19 of How Many Animals on the Ark by AiG

But what Jeanson doesn’t tell you is that the Ark Encounter features the cocker spaniel sized three-toed Messohippus as the ancestral Horse Kind. (see below) I haven’t seen any three-toed Zebras at the zoo lately…

r/DebateEvolution - Giant Plot Hole in Jeanson's Theories

Courtesy of Ark Encounter Blog

A big problem with the Cenozoic mammals hinges on the flood boundary. Jeanson seems to lean towards a Flood/post-flood boundary at the K-Pg, though remains undecided. The flood boundary is a MASSIVE issue. Where the flood ends should influence his entire genomic research. According to this AiG Article Jeanson admits that if we go with flood-boundary at K-Pg then all tertiary layers are post-flood. That means Pleistocene layers are Ice Age and the Ice Age happened after the flood. So “we have a tremendous amount of diversity to explain in a few hundred years.” A few hundred- NOT the 4600 years he includes as a variable in his book. We have tens of thousands of Ice Age camelid and mammoth fossils. Fossils! So how many were alive in the 300 years after the flood??

Later he writes, “This burst of diversification appears to have been followed by a burst of extinction.” He later admits that ” little overlap exists between the species found in the Tertiary and the species alive today.” Suspicious right?

In another article here he notes, “70% of the kinds of mammals that Noah brought on board the Ark died. This is not extinction by virtue of burial in the Flood. Rather, it’s extinction after the Flood.” So by the time of the ice age, most of the mammalian genera that had formed as well as a similar percentage of families that were taken on board the Ark all disappeared.

Jeanson does not attempt to hide the problem in his journal articles. He writes here that

In addition, with respect to the traditional scientific field by which the past has been interrogated— paleontology, lack of a comprehensive creationist model has hampered firm conclusions from being formed on the explosive speciation model.

He is saying the without a firm flood boundary we can’t form firm conclusions about the explosive speciation model. But that is almost the entire point of his book!

Of course, he knows that a late flood boundary makes his life easier. But the most active researching YEC paleontologist would tell him- don’t even go there. Dr. Marcus Ross disconfirms the late flood boundary here and here .

tldr; Jeanson’s work focuses largely on genetic changes of living mammals and totally ignores ALL of the fossil mammals of the Cenozoic

YEC views that have changed over the last 40 years

YEC has evolved over the last 40 years.

1. The geologic column is generally accepted as accurate The most influential YEC book (perhaps 2nd to the Bible) is The Genesis Flood by Whitcomb and Morris. Back in the ’70s, the authors were keen on discrediting the standard geologic column as a uniformitarian heresy. However, decades and many, many oil drills later, YECs now accept the geologic column (though not the ages).

2. Biologic diversity is a result of natural selection. Decades ago, natural selection was only supported by “evolutionists” or “secularists.” But even Answers in Genesis now incorporates natural selection into their theories. One of the Ark Encounter’s zoologists explains at 11:03 on video YouTube video made during the quarantine. Also, it is worth noting that in the video around the 2:15 mark, the AiG speaker states that there were about 6,800 animals on the ark. Those 6800 animals diversified into what species exist today (and those who are extinct). Contrast that with p. 69 of The Genesis Flood where the authors argued no more than 35,000 individual vertebrates were required to be on the ark.

3. Not all fossils are a result of Noah’s Flood
YECs know that the flood boundary is a crucial part of their theory. Where the floods end in the geologic record determines what animals died during Noah’s flood and which were created afterward. The problem is that YECs cannot decide where the global deluge starts and stops according to the rocks. Some argue that it is at the K-Pg boundary, but many YECs claim it is much later in the fossil record in the late Cenozoic. Well..there are those outliers that claim it is at the Lower Carboniferous.
Of course, either way- later Cenozoic or K-Pg boundary creates a dilemma. Unlike Ken Ham’s claim that a global flood means millions of fossils buried in rock all over the world, we also have lots and lots of fossils that were made in the 4,400 years since.

4. “Statistical Baraminology” has blurred the lines between kinds
Statistical baraminology was championed by the YEC biologist Todd Wood and retired vet turned baraminologist Jean Lightener. Statistical baraminology plots data sets of animal morphology and groups animals together. YECs have concluded that there is a lot of similarity between birds and theropod dinosaurs; see here. Paleontologist and YEC critic Phillip J. Senter has used baraminological methodology to show birds are dinosaurs. Also, YEC scientist Todd Wood has been heavily criticized for his work that shows an overlap between Austropolethicus and Homo sapiens. Not to mention the Ark Encounter video where the AiG zoologist admits that synapsids are mammal-like reptiles. Also, according to this article, dinosaurs might have had feathers.

5. Radiometric Dating is accurate for “relative dating
Given the countless amount of YEC hours spent debunking radiometric dating, this should come as a surprise. In a 2018 paper, the leading geologist of YEC (Andrew Snelling) admits on p. 3 of this paper the following. “Some of the minerals found in the supergene weathering zones of ore deposits can be date using the Ar/Ar radioisotope method. It could be argued that the method is unreliable and so cannot provide absolute dates. However, when it is carefully used it can still provide relative dates anchored to the biblical parameters for subdividing and dating the rock record.”