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Dinosaurs & other Prehistoric Life

  • Why are we talking about dinosaurs?

  • Did God make the dinosaurs?

  • When were the dinosaurs alive?

  • Scientists

  • How did we find out about dinosaurs?

  • Why did the dinosaurs die out (why did God let it happen?)

  • Were humans and dinosaurs ever living on earth at the same time?

  • Why aren’t dinosaurs in the Bible?

  • More Questions?

  • Why are we talking about dinosaurs?

    Who isn't fascinated by dinosaurs and the other creatures that roamed our world throughout its history?

    Since the first fossils were found, people have been asking questions about them and how they fit with the other questions we ask about the universe. 

    Take a look at some of these questions and see what you might find out about our world's amazing living history and how it relates to our thinking about religious faith. 

  • Did God make the dinosaurs?

    The Bible (the holy book that Christians read) says that God made everything. All the stars, the Earth and all the amazing plants and animals that live here or have ever lived here. So yes, most Christians believe that God made the dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals! The Bible also teaches that God loves it when people explore and learn to look after his creation, and science gives us a great way of doing that.  We can use science to discover all kinds of things about the physical world around us.  So many Christians, see sciences like palaeontology and evolutionary biology as gifts to help us to work out how God made everything, including the dinosaurs.

    For many years, scientists (lots of them Christians) have been working hard to understand more about the ways in which living things have developed – including the processes of change we call ‘evolution’. Some people of faith worry that evolution might mean that God didn’t make everything, but, in fact, lots of people throughout history and today agree that evolution can simply describe the processes God used to make all living things, including dinosaurs and humans!

  • When were the dinosaurs alive?

    Dinosaurs have lived on earth for hundreds of millions of years!

    Most of them lived between about 250 million and 65 million years ago. We call this time period the Mesozoic era, and it can be split into the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. Not all types of dinosaur lived on earth at the same time as each other. For example, T-Rex and Stegosaurus never met! They actually lived nearly 100 million years apart!

    There were also lots of things living alongside the dinosaurs which were not dinosaurs themselves, like huge flying pterodactyls, swimming ichthyosaurs and crocodiles. People often think that all of these were dinosaurs but they were actually separate groups (a bit like mammals, reptiles and insects living alongside each other today). There were even a few fluffy mammals around and lots and lots of insects!

    About 65 million years ago a huge mass-extinction event wiped out almost all of the dinosaurs and other life on earth. But some dinosaurs, the birds, are still alive today! That might sound surprising but science tells us that all birds, from eagles and ostriches to chickens and budgies are living dinosaurs!

  • BW

    Bob White

    MS

    Mary Schweitzer

    SB

    Sarah Bodbyl Roels

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    Simon Conway Morris

  • How did we find out about dinosaurs?

    We find out about dinosaurs from fossils.

    How fossils are made is really exciting! Sometimes after an animal or plant dies and the squishy, fleshy bits have been eaten or decayed away, it gets buried by materials like sand or mud. This protects its skeleton or other hard parts from things that might destroy or damage it, like scavenging animals, or bad weather. Over a very, very long time, layers of mud and sand continue to build up, squashing those underneath so much that they turn into rock. As water trickles and filters slowly through these rocks, the original skeleton material is dissolved, leaving an empty space which is then filled by minerals that essentially make a rock copy of the original skeleton. This rock copy is called a fossil.

    A combination of the movement of the earth’s crust and erosion by water and wind can mean that some of these fossils come to the surface and get found, giving us a glimpse of animals and plants which lived hundreds of millions of years before any humans even existed!

    There are reports of people discovering dinosaur fossils thousands of years ago. But for a long time people didn’t know what they had found. Some people in China thought they had found dragon bones, while people in Europe thought they’d found the bones of giants!

    During the Victorian age, scientists started to recognise that many of the mysterious fossils looked a bit like modern reptiles. In 1842 one scientist recognised that three different types of these ancient ‘reptiles’ looked more alike to each other than to any other animals, so he decided to group them into what he called the dinosaur family. The name literally means ‘terrible lizard’, because at the time they thought they were particularly scary lizards!

    We’ve learned a lot more about dinosaurs since then, and now we know that they’re not really lizards at all but a whole different group who were the ancestors to modern birds! But that’s where the name originally came from!

  • Why did the dinosaurs die out (why did God let it happen?)

    The more we learn about life on Earth, the more we realise about how it is always changing.

    Sometimes big changes happen all at once! About 65 million years ago around 75% of the living things on earth were wiped out, including most dinosaurs, and large reptiles like the marine plesiosaurs and the flying pterosaurs. So many types of plants and animals were killed that we call this a ‘mass extinction’ event. There have been 5 mass extinctions in the history of the planet.

    Most scientists think this mass extinction happened because a large asteroid hit the earth. The big collision caused a lot of damage and made a lot of changes to the Earth and its atmosphere, with earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunamis caused by the immediate impact, and other longer term factors like clouds of ash that blocked the sun for a time and the release of huge amounts of gases like carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and methane, causing drastic climate change. This meant that the environment changed faster than animals and plants could adapt to it, so many of them had nowhere to live that suited them anymore.

    The Bible (the holy book that Christians read) says God is good, so why didn’t he protect the Earth?

    Things like this sometimes seem sad, and leave us wondering why God would let his creation get hurt in this way. The Bible agrees that it is hard to understand but Christians believe it also says that the most important thing to know is that God really loves everything he has ever made, from humans to the biggest dinosaur.

    It’s good to remember that dinosaurs have lived on earth for hundreds of millions of years. And not all of the dinosaurs died out, birds are living dinosaurs which are still with us today!

    Another good thing to know is how, after each mass extinction, lots of new types of plants and animals have filled up the earth again, which might never have existed otherwise. So these changes are not all bad.

    The Bible claims that God created the entire universe, and encourages people to explore and find out all about how it works. It also says that whatever happens, God always loves everything he has ever made, so Christians believe we can trust him even when we don’t understand everything yet.

  • Were humans and dinosaurs ever living on earth at the same time?

    Yes! But probably not the kind of dinosaur you’re thinking of!

    Most of the dinosaurs we usually think of when we hear the word dinosaur, from Stegosaurus to Parasaurolophus, had died out by around 65 million years ago, long before humans first lived. But some of the smaller, feathery dinosaurs survived and over a long time they have evolved into the group of animals we call birds.

    We can see the evidence for this if we look at the bird family tree. Just like your family tree might show how you and all your siblings and cousins have inherited the name ‘Jones’ from your parents and they inherited it from your grandparents and so on, making you all part of the Jones family, we know that modern birds are part of the dinosaur family because they’re all related and the great-great-great-great-great-(and so on) grandparents of all of the modern birds were dinosaurs.

    So, from chickens and robins to penguins and ostriches, there are dinosaurs living all over our world today! If you look closely at the birds in your garden or your pet budgie, you might just see the resemblance to T-rex and Velociraptor!

  • Why aren’t dinosaurs in the Bible?

    When we ask questions like this it’s important to think carefully about the Bible (the holy book that Christians read), who wrote it, when and why.

    The Bible was written thousands of years before science became the area of study it is today. So there’s no obvious reason we should expect it to contain modern scientific theories or a comprehensive list of all the species that have existed (something we still don’t know yet!).

    It’s worth remembering that it’s not just dinosaurs that aren’t mentioned in the Bible, it doesn’t talk about armadillos, kangaroos, sabre-toothed cats or penguins either, let alone atomic formulae, gravitational waves, dark matter or any number of other things!

    The Bible says that God made everything so, it would seem that if he wanted to, God could have prompted the writer of Genesis to lay out all the processes and formulae for the universe and describe every living thing. But that may not have been very helpful, as we still struggle to understand these complex concepts even now, despite the development of modern science.

    Many Christians and biblical scholars agree that the creation stories in Genesis (and other parts of the Bible) are not written to be scientific textbooks, concerned with what the earth is made of or 'how' it's made. Rather, they believe these passages are designed to share important, meaningful ideas about the God behind the universe and his relationship with his people - explained in a way which is relevant to, and can be widely understood (with a little interpretation) by, people of all ages and cultures.

    However, just because dinosaurs aren’t mentioned in the Bible it doesn’t mean that they weren’t real, that Christians don’t believe they existed, or that God has no interest in them! The Bible says that God loves it when people explore and discover more about his incredible universe, including dinosaurs, so science is strongly encouraged! Many Christians hold what they learn from science alongside what they learn from the Bible about God, their relationship with him, and the meaning and purpose in the universe. 

  • More Questions?

    ​​Do you have questions which aren't covered here? We want to help!

    Take a look at some of our other topics, activities and resources to see what else you can discover. 

    Or why not get in touch and we'll do our best to help you out!