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Dinosaur extinction

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Paleontologists working in the Dinosaur National Monument

Dinosaur extinction is a result of the death of every member of a particular species of dinosaur. The extinction of such a large and formidable group of organisms remains a mystery to modern secular scientists. Many have proposed that an asteroid or series of meteorite impacts about 65 million years ago was responsible. Several pieces of evidence have been put forth to support this theory, and yet none adequately explain the extinction of the dinosaur to the exclusion of so many other living fossils that cohabited the Earth.

The Bible describes a devastating global flood said to have occurred because God decided to punish the Earth about 4500 years ago. This flood presumably accounts for much of the observable geological data we see around us, and the vast majority of the fossilized organisms found throughout the geological column. Nevertheless, the Bible is quite specific that two of every living kind of land animal was spared by way of Noah's ark. Therefore, creationists generally assume the dinosaurs went extinct some time following this event.

Contents

Creationist Theory

Human Causation

Portion of the Nile Mosaic of Palestrina showing humans hunting dinosaurs. Circa 100 BC.

If indeed the dinosaurs went extinct since the global flood, then some other force was involved with their demise. Given the proclivity of humans to cause harm or death to plants and animals, they should not be overlooked as a possible explanation. Most, if not all, organism extinctions since humans began to keep records were either directly or indirectly due to human causation.

Humans have a natural instinct to kill any animal that possesses a threatening imposition. Historically, reptiles of any significant size have been automatically and immediately killed when in the proximity of human habitats. Large reptiles the size of dinosaur would certainly be perceived as a threat and hunted-down by humans possessing hunting capabilities. It should be noted that we use "Dinosaur" in reference to a group of large reptilian animals as did the term dragon in ancient civilizations. However, historical accounts of these dinosaur-sized animals are being dismissed as mythological because such creature are presumed to have gone extinct millions of years before man walked the Earth.[1]

This may be one occasion where Occam's razor should be employed. It is paraphrased, All things being equal, the simplest solution tends to be the best one. Perhaps the simplest explanation is that the dinosaurs survived the the flood, but they could not survive mankind.

Secular Theories

The leading secular theory contends that the impact of one or more large comets or asteroids was responsible for the cooling trend ("impact winter") that killed off the dinosaurs; another theory attributes the sudden cooling to global climate change brought on by a series of huge volcanic eruptions over a short period of time ("volcanic winter").[2]

Asteroid Impact theory

This painting depicts an asteroid slamming into tropical, shallow seas of the sulfur-rich Yucatan Peninsula in what is today southeast Mexico. The aftermath of this immense asteroid collision, which is thought to have occurred approximately 65 million years ago, is believed to have caused the extinction of the dinosaurs and many other species on Earth.

There are a few craters that some advocates of the theory speculate could be the impact zone. Dr Alan Hildebrand, from the University of Arizona, says the impact most likely occurred on the sea floor north of Colombia and south of Jamaica, in the Caribbean Sea,(The Courier-Mail,May 19, 1990 (p. 3).)but most believe that the crater is in the Yucatán peninsula in south-east Mexico

However there are several problems with this.[3]

  1. The extinctions dates contradict the ages given to the craters.
  2. Drill cores of the crater on the Yucatán peninsula do not support the idea that it is an impact crater.
  3. Cores also say that the so-called crater was formed 300,000 years before the assumed mass extinction.[1](Keller 3753-3758}
  4. If there was an impact at the Yucatán peninsula, we should expect to see a much higher effect on the Northern Hemisphere then Southern Hemisphere. But this isn't so.(Vivi Vajda et al 1700-1702)

The iridium layer

The claim is that this, a layer of iridium all around the earth, is perfectly consistent with an asteroid hitting the earth. This was the prime reason the theory got accepted in the first place. But what does it really prove?

Dr Michael Oard points out that this can perfectly be explained by the Flood. Extreme volcanism can account for it. Stating: "Iridium-rich clay falling from the atmosphere would accumulate only during temporary lulls in the Flood."[4]

Once one taken this into mind, this would explain why there are 30 iridium horizons in the geological record. The iridium layers mark lulls in the sedimentation rate during the Flood.

There is also a major layer of ash in the Ordovician, consisting of at least 340 km3 worth of it. It is the same order of magnitude of that of the iridium layer yet it's not considered to be a extinction and no mass death can be correlated with it. (Huff et al 20:875-878)

Yet another paradox comes into play when we consider another asteroid, around the same size of the one that hit the earth and killing off the dinosaurs, hit Antarctica around 780,000 years ago according to some researchers, but it didn't cause a massive extinction.[2]

K/T boundary?

Mr. Oard also pointed out that the KT boundary is nothing more then circular reasoning. The end of the dinosaur era is marked in the geological column by the K/T boundary, but in many localities the K/T boundary is defined by the highest dinosaur fossil.

In support of this being a reality within the geological community, Oard cites the following papers:

  • Fastovsky, D. E. and Weishampel, D.B., The Evolution and Extinction of the Dinosaurs, Cambridge University Press, London, p. 11, 1996.("the end of the Cretaceous was commonly recognised as the place where the last (youngest) dinosaur was preserved.")
  • Cousin, R., Breton, G., Fournier, R. and Watt, J.-P., Dinosaur egglaying and nesting in France. In: Dinosaur Eggs and Babies, K. Carpenter, K.F. Hirsch and J.R. Horner (eds), Cambridge University Press, London, p. 57, 1994.(A layer in France once thought to be Tertiary was reclassified as Cretaceous based solely on the presence of dinosaur fossils)
  • Sahni, A., Tandon, S.K., Jolly, A., Bajpai, S., Sood, A. and Srinivasan, S., Upper Cretaceous dinosaur eggs and nesting sites from the Deccan volcano-sedimentary province of peninsular India. In: Dinosaur Eggs and Babies, K. Carpenter, K.F. Hirsch and J.R. Horner (eds), Cambridge University Press, London, p. 208, 1994. (A layer in India once thought to be Tertiary was reclassified as Cretaceous based solely on the presence of dinosaur fossils)

Also, it isn't quite true that dinosaur fossils completely stop to exist after the K/T boundary. There are several lines of evidence that point to dinosaur existence after this layer, if you assume the old earth theories. This shows use of selective evidence.

  • According to a 1988 paper, in South America, dinosaur and ungulates fossils have been found together. Ungulates lived in the Paleocene, which follows the Cretaceous. Thus dinosaurs survived or ungulates evolved before their time.

Another, interesting piece of data presented in the paper is the presence of terrestrial vertebrates totally trapped in limestone fissures. Fossils were also found in the limestone above the fissures. The fossils found in the fissures are Paleocene, but the ones above are mid-Cenozoic.(Van Valen p.79)

  • Cretaceous dinosaur teeth have been found in the lower Tertiary.(Eaton et al p.281-286)
  • Dinosaur fossils have been found in the Paleocene, but most just label it has reworking.(Rigby p.262.)However not all Paleocene dinosaur samples can be accounted for by reworking. In 2002, 34 pieces of a single hadrosaur at a single location. Also, geochemical studies comparing the uranium in Paleocene and the Cretaceous show a difference in amount(if you assume the secular time line of course). The bones showed the signs of Paleocene samples. Furthermore, the bones are quite large. One of the bones was a femur, weighing around 130 kg. These factors make reworking VERY unlikely.[3]

Some geologists claim that the K/T boundary should be defined as "at the extinction level of Upper Cretaceous planktonic foraminifera and the temporary and permanent disappearance of many coccolith species"[4]. However, this definition of the K/T boundary has been shown to be highly subjective. (Olsson & Liu, p. 127)

The shocked quartz

Grains of quartz may, under the microscope, appear to have planar deformation features. These are sometimes called ‘shock lamellae’, but since they are not always caused by shock deformation, it is a term which can mislead. They may be caused by impact, by volcanism, or by prolonged pressure from tectonic activity, such as when one rock grinds against another. Certain types are more commonly associated with impact, others more commonly with volcanic activity. There was a brief flurry of finds of a thin layer of these ‘impact’ grain types in North America, but not associated with any wide-scale extinction (other than at most a local one). There was an alleged impact crater associated with these for a while, but it went out of favour with further studies. Moreover, in other parts of the world, the deformed quartz associated with iridium anomalies at the K-T boundary is found in much more diffuse layers, and is of the type more commonly associated with volcanism.[5]

A nuclear winter?

Many proponents of the asteroid theory believe that the main cause of death was not the impact it’s self, but the nuclear like winter following it. They say that there was a years-long periods of darkness and frigid temperatures, because the sun was blocked out. But does the data back this up?

Honey bees have been around for a long time, even before the dinosaurs, if you assume old-earthism. Many paleontologists believe that ancient honey bees are near identical to the modern tropical honey. So we come to a critical question... why are honey bees still around if this “nuclear fall out” theory really happened? Bees require the exact opposite conditions of those found in the nuclear fall out theory.[6]

Part of this theory claims that there was a giant dust cloud around the earth, but in a 2002 Science article, researchers point out that if a dust cloud really was responsible for dinosaur extinctions, then there should have been many more such impact-triggered extinctions from other asteroid impacts.(Richard A. Kerr 1445-1447) In 2002, a paper by Kevin Pope published in the journal Geology pointed out there is simply not enough fine dust on planet earth. He claims that "findings indicate that the original K-T impact extinction hypothesis–the shutdown of photosynthesis by submicrometer-size dust–is not valid, because it requires more than two orders of magnitude more fine dust than is estimated here. Furthermore, estimates of future impact hazards, which rely upon inaccurate impact-dust loadings, are greatly overstated.” (Kevin Pope 99–102)

Furthermore, the K/T boundary of North American is abundant in non-charred plant remains and there is only one ninth the amount charcoal found in it then what is found in the Cretaceous layers. This is in direct contradiction of a massive nuclear-like explosion.(Belcher et al, 204)

Time line problem

The standard theory proclaims that an asteroid hit the earth around 65 millions years ago, but there are several problems this theory. Simply put, the data, if you assume old-earthism, doesn’t agree with it happening around 65 million years ago.

Newer research has found that the earth's climate was actually changing before 65 millions years ago. According to their research, the dinosaurs were already dieing, and the nuclear winter just finished them off quickly, but what caused this declined? There are still questions that need to be answered.( Discovery Channel News,28 July 2003.)[7]

Tectonic activity

In 2000, scientists proposed that massive and prolonged volcanic activity as a more likely cause, claiming the fossil evidence fits this explanation better than the asteroid theory. They point out that an asteroid alone cannot account for such a large extinction of the dinosaurs.(Nature, March 9, 2000, pp. 122-123.)

However, these theories are also incapable of producing the observable data. Explosive volcanism, outside that of a global Flood setting, would not be able to create the planar deformation we see.It can't produce nearly enough power and pressure.(Gratz 1391-1394)

Another theory, proposed in 2000, claims that India collided with the rest of Asia. When this happened, it affected the crust from Italy to New Caledonia causing rapid mountain build up. Such an event could possibly wipe out the dinosaurs.(The Age (Melbourne), 3 November 2000.)

Challenges

Polar dinosaur

In 1999 a pachycephalosaur was discovered on the North Slope of Alaska. A year later a hadrosaur tooth was discovered on James Ross Island, Antarctica (2000). Additionally, dinosaurs have been found throughout northern Canada from the Yukon Territory to the Queen Elizabeth Islands, as well as central Siberia, Alaska, and on Svalbard (north of Norway). These discoveries of dinosaurs near the ‘Mesozoic’ poles or at polar latitudes are now calling into question assumptions about dinosaurs, their habitats, physiology, and extinction. Of particular concern is how they could survive the cold and the long periods of darkness. It does not appears that any of the dinosaurs were specifically adapted to polar locations, since the fossils found at high latitudes are also found at lower latitudes.[5].

It is difficult to imagine how this community functioned if the temperatures were as low as the physical indicators suggest. No convincing explanation exists as yet for this apparent anomaly.[6]

It had previously been assumed that dinosaurs were tropical animals and cold-blooded (ectotherms), but scientists are now forced to question these assumptions and many assert that some were warm-blooded (endotherms). However, if dinosaurs were indeed warm blooded, it challenges the long held belief that their extinction was the result of a sudden climatic cooling due to meteorite or volcanic debris. It seems highly implausible that such a temperature change would affect dinosaurs capable of living in polar regions and not affect the cold-blooded reptiles that remain today.[2] The following summary quote from the U.S. Geological Survey is very telling.

One current theory contends that the impact of one or more large comets or asteroids was responsible for the cooling trend ("impact winter") that killed off the dinosaurs; another theory attributes the sudden cooling to global climate change brought on by a series of huge volcanic eruptions over a short period of time ("volcanic winter"). The discovery of the polar dinosaurs clearly suggests that they survived the volcanic winter that apparently killed other dinosaur species. This then raises an intriguing question: Why did they become extinct if they were well adapted to a cold climate? Paleontologists do not have the answers.[2]

Further complications for standard climate models has come from indicators that polar latitudes during the time of the dinosaurs were once much warmer than today. Cold-blooded animals that cannot survive periods of cold have been found with dinosaurs in regions that are assumed to have been within the Arctic Circle. Tropical trees, such as Swamp Cypress and Breadfruit have been found in areas that should have been at freezing temperatures. In addition, sea floor drilling samples indicate that the Arctic Ocean (which is dark for half of the year) was as warm as 15°C during the ‘Late Cretaceous’. [5]

Michael Oard, a creation scientist (meteorologist) does not believe the existence of polar region dinosaurs can be interpreted from within the secular (uniformitarian) worldview. In the 2006 issue of Journal of Creation, he put forth a hypothesis that the polar plants and animals did not live in these regions, but rather were transported there during the global flood.[5]

Summary

Jonathan Sarfati provides a summary of other problems:

  • The extinction was not that sudden (using evolutionary/long-age interpretations of the geological record). But the spread in the geological record makes sense if much of the sedimentary deposits were formed in Noah’s flood.
  • Light-sensitive species survived.
  • Extinctions don’t correlate with crater dates, even given evolutionary dating assumptions.
  • Modern volcanic eruptions don’t cause global extinction patterns, even if they cause a temporary temperature drop.
  • The iridium enrichment, supposedly a key proof of meteor impact, is not nearly as clearly defined as claimed.
  • Drill cores of the apparent ‘smoking gun’ crater on the Yucatán peninsula in southeast Mexico do not support the idea that it is an impact crater.
  • It seems that some scientists didn’t speak out against the idea for fear of undermining the ‘nuclear winter’ idea, and being grouped with ‘nuclear warmongers.’.[7]

News

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References

  1. Dinosaurs and dragons: stamping on the legends by Russell Grigg. Creation 7(3):18–19. June 1985
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Polar dinosaurs in Australia? by the U.S. Geological Survey. Accessed July 19, 2010.
  3. Did a meteor wipe out the dinosaurs? What about the iridium layer? by Jonathan Sarfati, Ph.D. (2001)
  4. The extinction of the dinosaurs by Michel Oard. Journal of Creation 11(2):137–154. August 1997
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Polar dinosaur conundrum by Michael J. Oard. Journal of Creation 20(2):6–7, August 2006.
  6. Rich, T.H., Vickers-Rich, P. and Gangloff, R.A., Polar dinosaurs, Science 295, p. 979, 2002.
  7. Sarfati, Jonathan. Refuting Evolution 2 Chapter 8 - Argument: The fossil record supports evolution. Greenforest AR: Master Books, 2002. (p146)

Further reading

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