Feature Article - July 2015
by Do-While Jones

Dinosaur Retrospective

The blockbuster movie, Jurassic World, highlights how much the “truth” about dinosaurs has changed over the years.

Jurassic World is breaking movie box office records, so this is a good time to look at how the “truth” about dinosaurs has changed over the years. Other articles in this month’s newsletter review the latest scientific articles about dinosaur metabolism and Jurassic climate change. This article, however, is a personal stroll down memory lane, reminiscing about how dinosaurs have been portrayed on TV, in movies, museums, and amusement parks over the years.

Jurassic World vs. Jurassic Park

Since it is a sequel, there are many similarities between 1993’s Jurassic Park and 2015’s Jurassic World. Both movies begin with thought-provoking dialog about risk versus reward, safety versus profit, questioning the morality and wisdom of creating living things which may not integrate well with modern society, and so on. That dialog is the reason why I’ve watched the beginning of Jurassic Park several times. The beginning of Jurassic World is also worth watching multiple times for the same reason.

Both movies end with an excessively long, boring, predictable segment in which dinosaurs eat people who don’t want to be eaten. If you fall asleep 30 minutes after the movie starts, you won’t miss anything. (If you do stay awake, you might notice that more people are hurt by other people during the panic that ensues, than by the dinosaurs on the loose.)

How accurate is the portrayal of dinosaurs in Jurassic World? That’s not a fair question because the main dinosaur is one the scientists created through genetic modification, with no intention of accurately recreating an animal that ever existed. They just wanted to combine the most terrifying aspects of several different creatures to create the most terrifying dinosaur the world has ever known (or, more accurately, that the world had never known) to satisfy the public’s craving for something new. It took a lot of intelligent design for the scientists to create Indominus rex. Blind chance didn’t create such a terrible monster.

Genetic Engineering

“Dinosaur Jack” Horner, from Montana State University, is the go-to-guy Jurassic World used for technical advice. He was interviewed by Nature, and made this observation about genetic engineering:

How plausible is such a dino-hybrid?

Jurassic World is set in the future. If you can clone a dinosaur, you can modify its DNA and combine it with that of other animals. We already have lots of tools for modifying an animal. We have been breeding them for centuries. Now we are getting to the point where we can take genes out of one organism and put them into another, for example taking fluorescent genes out of jellyfish and putting them into the embryos of other animals to make them glow in the dark. The challenge is finding ways of changing a creature without killing it. And I think we will. 1

The more we learn about DNA modification, the more we learn that new functionality could not happen by chance, and that changes usually have fatal consequences.

Accurate Representation

The supporting cast of dinosaurs was supposed to consist of accurate recreations of real dinosaurs; but the velociraptors were not feathered because,

The science has got ahead of the films, but we cannot really change the way the dinosaurs look. If suddenly the raptors had feathers, it would destroy consistency. 2

They got it wrong (according to current consensus) on purpose! Horner also gave this revealing answer about how dinosaurs behaved:

They were more like robins than crocodiles. Their spikes and shields were too flimsy for fighting and were more likely to be for display, like the bony crests on some modern birds. Some dinosaurs had feathers and probably 'danced' like birds. … I wrote a script once for a film where scientists come out of their time machine to see triceratops dancing and showing off their coloured shields. Nobody would go to that movie. 3

Maybe in the sequel to Jurassic World there should be some dialog about the propriety of a theme park (or museum, or movie) intentionally misrepresenting science to avoid making the visitors uncomfortable by challenging their preconceived notions.

A Tradition of Ignorance

Museums and public attractions have a long tradition of playing fast and loose with science in order to please their guests. Perhaps the best example comes from Disneyland.

Fifty years ago, the 1964 New York World’s Fair closed. When it did, Walt Disney moved It’s a Small World and the Grand Canyon/Primeval World diorama (which could be called, It’s a Jurassic World ) from New York to Disneyland. In the former attraction, boats move people past moving dolls representing the stereotypical cultures of the world, reflecting the racist views of the time. In the latter, a railroad train moves people past moving dinosaur dolls representing the stereotypical primeval world, reflecting the scientific views of the time.

In Disneyland’s Grand Canyon/Primeval World diorama, visitors are first taken past an accurate representation of the Grand Canyon as it appears today, with real taxidermy showing the animals living there today. But then, visitors are taken back in time to see what the Grand Canyon looked like millions of years ago. 4 It looks real enough that one might really believe it accurately portrays the behavior of the dinosaurs living in the Grand Canyon back then, based on the dinosaur fossils found there.

There are just two problems. The first is that there is no fossil evidence that dinosaurs ever lived in the Grand Canyon. According to the National Park Service,

What about dinosaur fossils? Not at Grand Canyon! The rocks of the canyon are older than the oldest known dinosaurs. 5

The rocks the Grand Canyon goes through are supposedly older than the dinosaurs, but last month Science News alleged the canyon itself is much younger.

Triceratops and Tyrannosaurus rex never peered over the Grand Canyon’s steep slopes, new research suggests.

Estimates of the canyon’s origins vary from under 6 million (SN: 1/25/14, p. 22) to more than 70 million years ago (SN Online: 11/29/12) — old enough for dino visitors. A comparison of the Colorado Plateau’s rocky features now concludes that the older, western section of the canyon had to have been carved out much more recently than 12 million years ago. 6

Second, the timing is all wrong (according to the evolutionary myth).

In 1966, the diorama was expanded with a prehistoric theme to become the "Grand Canyon/Primeval World" diorama, with Audio-Animatronic dinosaurs from Walt Disney's 1964 New York World's Fair attraction Ford Magic Skyway, where the diorama was viewed from a Ford Mustang convertible. The attraction was transferred to Disneyland in 1965. The dinosaurs include a Tyrannosaurus Rex, a Triceratops and a Stegosaurus, despite the fact that these animals lived millions of years apart. 7

One could argue that there are lots of other scientifically incorrect things in Disneyland—starting with the Dumbo the Flying Elephant ride—so it doesn’t really matter. But when people are repeatedly exposed to mythical science at amusement parks, on TV, in movies, and in museums, they start to believe the myth. It’s a Small World is just a ride—but it does reinforce the idea that Hawaiians don’t do anything but surf and dance the hula. The ride ends when all the dolls wear white, and sing in perfect harmony. It’s a Small World is just a ride—but it does teach subconscious racial lessons to young minds. Showing dinosaurs in the Grand Canyon also teaches subconscious lessons.

We don’t mean to single out Disneyland as especially evil. I take my grandkids there every time they come to California. I love Disneyland. We just think Disneyland is a good example of how popular culture affects attitudes because so many people visit there every day. We could make the same point about Morrill Hall 8 in Lincoln, Nebraska—but you’ve probably never been there to see it for yourself, so writing about Morrill Hall would not mean as much to you. Sadly, the natural history museum closest to you probably isn’t much different from Disneyland or Morrill Hall.

Plastic Toy Dinosaurs

One of the characters in Jurassic World has some plastic toy dinosaurs on his console. Those things have been around for as long as I can remember. I had some, and knew everything there was to know about those dinosaurs because I read Roy Chapman Andrews book, All About Dinosaurs, in 1953. (If Andrews was not the model for the character, Indiana Jones, he certainly could have been.)

Although I lost my copy of All About Dinosaurs, years ago, I was able to find another one on the Internet. So, let’s travel back to 1953, with plastic dinosaurs in hand, to see how much the “truth” about dinosaurs has changed. Here’s what I learned from Andrews:

Triceratops

Of all the armored dinosaurs, Triceratops (Tri-cer’-a-tops) is the most interesting and spectacular. He belongs to the group known as Ceratopsia (Cer-a-top’-si-a). Of course, you know what an army tank looks like. Well, if Triceratops were alive, and standing at a distance in the grass, you might think he was a tank. You would see a thick, squat body, 30 feet long, and an enormous head ending in a great flared shield. From its center, two “guns” point forward. But as you come close, what appear to be the muzzles of machine guns, turn out to be a pair of long horns. On the nose, above the hooked, parrot-like beak, stands the third upright horn, shorter than the others. The three horns give it the name Triceratops. If you looked Triceratops squarely in the face, you would notice a thick guard of overhanging bone in front of each eye.

This dinosaur was a terrible fighting machine. None could stand against him except the King of Tyrants. I doubt if even that creature of destruction often attacked a Triceratops. 9

Remember, we just quoted Jack Horner as saying, “Their spikes and shields were too flimsy for fighting and were more likely to be for display.” Tricerotops must have evolved stronger horns and shields in the last 62 years!

Here are some other things I learned from Andrews’ book:

Dinosaurs were cold-blooded reptiles related to crocodiles, snakes, and lizards. At one time they ruled the entire world. 10

People often ask if there are any dinosaurs living today. The answer is, no. They all died out at the end of the Age of Reptiles. 11

Ape-like human beings did not exist until one million years ago. 12

First, there are a few facts that must be explained. The earth is about two billion years old. 13

The “fact” that dinosaurs were cold-blooded reptiles is disputed today, as we report in this month’s Evolution in the News column, “Lukewarm Dinosaurs.”

The “fact” that there are no dinosaurs living today has also been disputed.

Birds are dinosaurs not just because they evolved from dinosaurs, but because they are more closely related to some of the extinct dinosaurs than those dinosaurs are to each other! So next time that someone tells you that dinosaurs are extinct, you can tell them that, actually, there are probably more species of dinosaur alive today than there were in the Mesozoic! 14

Evolutionists now believe that ape-like creatures really did exist one million years ago. In fact,

The new Ethiopian fossil, announced online by the journal Science, pushes the arrival of Homo on the East African landscape back almost half a million years, to 2.8 million years ago. The date is tantalizingly close to the last known appearance, around three million years ago, of Australopithecus afarensis, an upright-walking, small-brained species best known from the skeleton called Lucy, believed by many scientists to be the direct ancestor of our genus. The new jaw, known as LD 350-1, was found in January 2013 just a dozen miles from where Lucy was found in 1974. 15

Nobody (neither creationists nor evolutionists) believes that the Earth is 2 billion years old. According to evolutionists,

The age of the Earth is 4.54 ± 0.05 billion years. 16

We anticipate getting emails from people saying, “Well, that’s just what they believed in 1953. We know better, now!” We suspect that in 2077 people will laugh at what today’s evolutionists say, and casually dismiss it by saying, “Well, that’s just what they believed in 2015, We know better now!”

People believed Newton’s Three Laws of Motion in 1687, and they still believe them today. That’s because Newton’s Laws were discovered and proved by experimental science. Consensus about when dinosaurs lived, how they lived, their metabolic rate, and why they went extinct, is just constantly changing speculation. Consensus is not science. Consensus is for evolution; but science is against evolution.

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Footnotes:

1 Nature, 04 June 2015, “Q&A: The dinosaur doctor”, pp.32-33, http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v522/n7554/full/522032a.html
2 ibid.
3 ibid.
4 You can virtually experience the ride on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PQU1rAUYv_g
5 http://www.nps.gov/grca/learn/nature/fossils.htm
6 Thomas Sumner, Science News, June 18, 2015, “Dinosaurs may not have seen the Grand Canyon after all”, https://www.sciencenews.org/blog/science-ticker/dinosaurs-may-not-have-seen-grand-canyon-after-all
7 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disneyland_Railroad
8 http://museum.unl.edu/exhibits/index.html
9 Roy Chapman Andrews, All About Dinosaurs, 1953, Random House, pages 84-85
10 ibid. page 3
11 ibid. page 6
12 ibid. page 6
14 http://paleocave.sciencesortof.com/2013/06/why-are-birds-dinosaurs/
15 Jamie Shreeve, National Geographic, March 5, 2015, “Oldest Human Fossil Found, Redrawing Family Tree”, http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2015/03/150304-homo-habilis-evolution-fossil-jaw-ethiopia-olduvai-gorge/
16 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Age_of_the_Earth