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Paleontology is the study of fossils, which are the remains of life from long ago. When it comes to dinosaurs, there are many theories about what caused them to go extinct. Some scientists suggest that the climate or their diet changed, while others blame disease, parasites, changes in the atmosphere, volcanic activity, meteorites, and more. There are many ideas, but no one is completely sure what happened to the dinosaurs. This shows that paleontology is a field that involves a lot of guesswork and opinions.
Sudden Extinction Theory
A more recent idea about what happened to the dinosaurs was proposed by Luis and Walter Alvarez. Walter Alvarez discovered a thin layer of red clay between two limestone layers in Italy that showed almost no signs of life. The geologists believed this clay had some connection with the extinction of dinosaurs. When they analyzed the clay, they found it was rich in iridium, a rare metal that is usually only found in the Earth’s core or from outside sources. They believed that the iridium was deposited by a giant asteroid that struck the Earth and caused the dinosaurs to become extinct suddenly.
Similar deposits of iridium-enriched clay were found in other parts of the world after the discovery in Gubbio, but some scientists still have doubts about the asteroid theory. Nevertheless, the Alvarez hypothesis brought new insights to the study of extinction and evolution, according to the book The Riddle of the Dinosaur. Paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould also recognized its potential to decrease the significance of competition between species. This new theory and the abrupt extinction of dinosaurs could challenge the current ideas of natural selection and significantly impact evolutionary biology.
According to University of Arizona scientist David Jablonski, many species died out suddenly and in a unique way. Mass extinctions were not just the result of gradual deaths over time, but rather something unusual happened. Additionally, their arrival on the scene was sudden. Scientific American notes that the sudden appearance of pterosaurs, for example, without any clear ancestors, is a common occurrence in the fossil record. This is also true for dinosaurs. Their relatively quick appearance and disappearance goes against the widely accepted idea of evolution taking place gradually over a long period of time.
The Dating of Dinosaurs
Dinosaur bones are usually found deeper in the ground than human bones, making it seem like they lived in an earlier time period. Scientists call this time the Mesozoic period and divide it into three periods: Cretaceous, Jurassic, and Triassic, which lasted tens of millions of years. However, it’s not entirely certain if this is accurate. One way scientists try to determine the age of fossils is through radiocarbon dating. This method measures the rate of decay of radioactive carbon after an organism dies. Once it dies, it stops absorbing carbon from the environment, and the amount of the radioactive carbon declines over time due to decay.
There are major issues with radiocarbon dating. Firstly, when a fossil is around 50,000 years old, its radioactivity levels are so low that it is hard to detect. Secondly, even in newer specimens, the low radioactivity levels make it challenging to measure accurately. Finally, scientists can only measure the current rate of radioactive carbon formation and have no way to determine carbon concentrations from the distant past.
Whether scientists use the radiocarbon method to date fossils or other methods like radioactive potassium, uranium, or thorium to date rocks, they can’t determine the original levels of these elements over time. According to professor of metallurgy Melvin A. Cook, the age results obtained through guessing the concentrations of these elements can be no better than the guess itself. This is especially true considering that the Great Flood that occurred over 4,300 years ago caused significant changes to the atmosphere and the Earth’s surface.
Geologists Charles Officer and Charles Drake from Dartmouth College suggest that radioactive dating may not be entirely reliable. They say that the elements, such as iridium, were not deposited all at once but over a relatively short time, about 10,000 to 100,000 years. They also argue that the movement of continents and volcanic eruptions may have disrupted the world, leading to changes in radioactivity levels, which could affect modern-day radioactive dating.
The Genesis Account and Dinosaurs
The method of radioactive dating is still uncertain, despite being innovative. The account of the Bible’s first chapter, however, simply lists the general order of creation. It allows for possibly thousands of millions of years for the earth to form, followed by six creative eras, or “days,” which prepared the earth for human habitation. The fifth era mentioned in Genesis, when the Bible says that God made “flying creatures” and “great sea monsters,” may have included some dinosaurs and pterosaurs. Other types of dinosaurs may have been created in the sixth era. The abundance of vegetation in their time would have been suitable for the vast array of dinosaurs with their huge appetites, according to Genesis 1:20-24.
According to the Bible, God created dinosaurs, and they had a specific purpose. However, the Bible does not explain how or when they died. Even though we may not fully understand their purpose, we know that they were not a mistake or a result of evolution. The fact that dinosaurs appear suddenly in the fossil record without any ancestral fossils and disappear without leaving connecting links challenges the idea that they gradually evolved over millions of years. Therefore, the fossil record supports the Bible’s view that God created them.