Evolution (Part 2) Are Dinosaur Fossils From Alien Worlds?
The Fresh Perspective Podcast - Episode 18
How’s it going everyone? I’m Nick and you are listening to the Fresh Perspective Podcast.
In this episode, we continue our examination of the evidence behind the theory of Evolution by Natural Selection. If you have missed part 1 of this series titled, “Evolution (1) Intelligent Design and Darwinism,” be sure to pause this episode and give it a listen:
There is a popular idea that many fundamentalists and young earth creationists share. This is the idea that all of the evidence of ancient life on this planet, including all of the fossils older than 6,000 years (or so), don’t actually come from this planet. You see, many people believe that the story of Adam and Eve literally happened. They believe that Adam and Eve literally lived in the Garden of Eden some 6,000 years ago, and it was their “fall” that introduced death into the world. Adam acts in Christianity like an opposite to Jesus Christ. Adam and Eve bring death into the world and Jesus Christ brings everlasting life into the world. It is a poetic idea, but it leads to a massive problem: fundamentalists Christians don’t believe that anything could have died before Adam and Eve, even when we have mountains around us filled with fossils!
Rather than admit that their idea of the history of the earth is flawed, several creationists double down and insist that all of the apparent death in the fossil record could not have possibly come from a pre-human earth. They are left with no choice than to claim that all dinosaurs are aliens. What does the fossil evidence actually show? Can there be any truth to extraterrestrial dinosaurs? Today, we will go over all of that, and more!
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My wife’s family and I returned recently from a week-long camping trip to Dinosaur National Monument near Vernal, Utah, and the Colorado border. A museum there called the “Quarry Exhibit Hall” was built around a massive face of a mountain that has been partially excavated. About 1,500 dinosaur bone fossils have been left half-exposed in the rock face, allowing visitors to see an impressive example of where dinosaur bone fossils are found, how they can be naturally arranged, and what it takes to get them out of the ground.
We walked up to the rock face, felt the fossils with our own hands, and marveled at the jumbled collection of fossilized bones belonging to Allosaurus, Apatosaurus, Camarasaurus, Diplodocus, and, my personal favorite dinosaur, Stegosaurus. Most astonishing to me is how the rock perfectly preserves the spongy shape of the tissue inside of the bones and the organic fractures on the outside of the bone. Only rock has been left behind, but the shape of it is truly amazing.
We hiked on desert trails around the museum where the sharp-eyed-dinosaur-hunter can spot even more fossils still lodged in the rocks around the park.
This was the second time my wife and I admired this particular exhibit, but our fascination with fossils, or evidence of ancient life, has taken us all over our home state. There is a great museum in Saint George, Utah, built over an ancient lake bed called “The Dinosaur Discovery Site at Johnson Farm.” There is an amazing collection of trace fossils. These fossils aren’t bones. The majority of them are actually made from the body impressions, footprints, scratch marks, tail marks, and other impressions left by ancient animals on the muddy ground over 65 million years ago.
For those looking for an even more raw experience with fossils, one of our favorite vacations took us to “Fossil Point” near the city of Green River, Utah. There, you can see the reddish sauropod fossils still embedded in the tan and white Jurassic rocks out in the middle of the desert. Even as a child, I personally excavated dozens of trilobite fossils near Topaz, Utah.
I bring all of this up because I have encountered many people in my life, adults, family members, fellow college students, and coworkers, who don’t believe in the fossil record. They simply don’t believe that all of these bone structures or traces exist in nature, or that they came from prehistoric earth life. I remember one recent debate on the subject in which a coworker of mine said, “Well no one has ever seen dinosaur bones in the rock, have they?” I happily raised my hand and answered, “I have.”
Not long ago I was teaching at a charter school. One day, during lunch, one of my fellow instructors had finally had it with all my talk about evolution and fossils. She said that she was sure that dinosaurs were completely made up. She proudly believed in angels, aliens, and ghosts, but dinosaurs were a bit too much for her. “Come on,” she argued, “giant lizards with sharp teeth that would fight all day, it sounds like a movie!” After some conversational prodding, I was able to get to the bottom of why she felt this way. She brought up a common article of faith shared by many members of the Mormon Church. “Well, God made the earth out of leftovers from other planets. So dinosaur bones are really just the bones of aliens.”
I know right? It may sound ludicrous to you, but I have heard this explanation ever since I was a child. When someone who fundamentally believes in the literal interpretations of scripture, they often find themselves backed into ideological corners. Sometimes, the only way they can justify their crazy beliefs is by believing in even more crazy beliefs. It is like paying off all of your debt by getting further into debt. It is a logical fallacy called “special pleading.” If you want to get to the bottom of what is real and what is right, making an absurd claim that is only supported by more absurd claims is the wrong path to take.
This isn’t just a problem within rural Utah. There are many religious communities around the world sitting on a gold mine of scientific information and treasures of natural history. You may notice that talk about dinosaurs in those communities tends to be regulated to children’s stories or kindergarten activities. If you are an adult who is passionate about learning about ancient life, you may quickly find yourself in the minority.
As you may have guessed, the idea that all fossils come from alien life has several flaws. In this episode, I will give you 5 quick counter-arguments that demonstrate the absurdity of this proposal. I only had time to bring up two of these counter-arguments off the top of my head in the teacher’s break room before my coworker bluntly changed the subject.
In this episode, I won’t be touching on Panspermia, hitchhiking microbes, or the legitimate search that comes from astrobiologists. Our present conversation is not dealing with the origin of life. Rather, it is a response to a specific claim regarding dinosaur fossils. If an organism is born, hatched, or otherwise originates on earth, then we should be comfortable calling it "earth life."
Here is something strange I’ve noticed. When it comes to the theory of Evolution, its only critics tend to be those who are religiously motivated. That is pretty odd. If I’m wrong about that, please send me a link to a purely secular or scientific rebuttal of the theory and then I’ll happily add a comment negating this claim. But as far as I can tell, creationists seem to be the only ones that have a problem with Evolution.
Imagine if the whole world accepted that electricity is really just the flow of electrons, except for one fringe group: Pokémon card collectors. We are all fine with this explanation of electricity, we teach it to our kids, we can support it with evidence and experimentation, but then the Pokémon Card Collectors start making anti-electron-flow videos and before you know it, half of Americans no longer believe in electrons. For someone like me, that is how bizarre this whole “Evolution vs. Creationism” debate really is.
Now, full disclosure, if creationism actually turns out to be correct, then I hope we all figure it out and get with the program. I sincerely mean that. Whatever is the fact of the matter is what I sincerely want to believe. The problem is that the raw evidence from nature points to natural processes like evolution. We live in a time in which the vast majority of natural phenomenon can be explained without a superhuman pulling the strings, or a heavenly magician operating backstage.
With that said, let’s jump into five counter-arguments you can make if you ever find yourself up against someone making the argument that all dinosaurs are aliens:
1. The reason why dinosaur fossils are not described in ancient scriptures isn’t that they aren’t of this earth. It is because the ancient peoples didn’t know about them or understand them.
In classical and medieval Europe, it was common for people to find strangely shaped rocks on the ground. They resembled something like petrified snake or dragon tongues! Pliny the Elder taught his fellow Romans that these fell from the sky during lunar eclipses. One Irish tradition states that these were all that were left of the snakes that were banished by Saint Patrick through the power of God.
It wasn’t until after an Italian Scientist came along named Fabio Colonna that we started to understand what these weird rocks actually were. At around the year 1616 AD, Colonna proposed that these were actually shark teeth, not tongues or lunar creations. Modern science has been able to validate Colonna’s claims.
There is good evidence that fossils have been found all throughout human history. However, fossils don’t come with labels, so the ancients had to do their best at understanding exactly what these were. Sometimes they were thought to be animals petrified by magic or divine power. Other times they were thought to be man-made carvings. Sometimes they were written off as the remains of great sea creatures or dragons. Other times, they were imagined to be the evidence of long-ago ages of mythological heroes, monsters, gods, or titans.
It makes total sense to me that faith traditions around the world emerged and unified early hunter-gatherer communities, long before dinosaur bone fossils were discovered or understood. Early humans had to constantly deal with hunger, disease, war, infighting, childcare, and mortality. We needed explanations, and we needed them fast. Our ancestors didn’t have a lot of time to carefully dig through layers of solid rock and discover the traces of prehistoric life. The spirits and personalities we gave animals and objects eventually became pantheons of gods, some more powerful than others. These beliefs led to the first monotheistic religions.
Let’s jump forward several hundred years. The United States is now on the map, but humanity has progressed very little in our understanding of Mesozoic monsters like Tyrannosaurus Rex or Triceratops. Dinosaurs were far from the public discussion. More interesting at the time was Protestantism and the emergence of several new churches.
Joseph Smith founded the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or the Mormon Church in the year 1830. The Baptist preacher William Miller predicted that the Second Coming of Jesus Christ would occur at some point between 1843 and 1844. Most of his followers would later become the Seventh-Day Adventists. Around this same time, the Holiness Movement was picking up steam, leading to more people taking a look at the teachings of John Wesley like Phoebe Palmer, one of the first leaders of Methodist Christianity.
When many of today’s churches were getting started, there was not a person on Earth who knew what an Allosaurus or a Diplodocus was. They wrote about the Bible, about America, about all sorts of things, but their religious teachings didn’t touch at all on the billions of years of life that took place on their own planet. There was a lot of preaching and stomping and singing, but not a word about the billions of years of history below their feet.
Now fast forward to the Civil War Era of the United States. Early naturalist fossil collectors such as Edward Drinker Cope and Othniel Charles Marsh were sent by their respective academies and universities to see what they can find in the badlands of the South-western United States. Their competition is legendary, and it may be fun to dedicate an episode to it. It would be these two fossil hunters that would discover and popularize many of the species of dinosaurs that your first-grader can name today.
Dinosaurs were discovered and understood AFTER almost all of the holy books and teachings of the world’s religions were established. (As a side note, this is exactly what you would expect from manmade religions, and not from peoples led by an omniscient being.) If you are a fundamentalist Christian from a religion that was jump-started any time before the Civil War, then your church is at a historical disadvantage. Most of what we know about the Mesozoic or any pre-human life for that matter, has been discovered fairly recently. Your holy teachings don’t have dinosaurs in them because people didn’t know about dinosaurs, nor did they understand the true nature of fossils. It is just that simple.
2. All fossils are buried in the correct order, from the oldest to the newest.
This is a pretty simple concept. If you have a hamper of dirty laundry, the clothing on the bottom was put there before the clothing on the top. Layers of rock further down are older than layers of rock at the surface. Now let’s take this a step further. Fossils found on surface-level rock layers are newer than fossils found in rock layers below them. So far so good?
Here is the truth about the fossil record. Every undisturbed fossil ever found has been found in the correct rock layer as predicted by Evolution. You will never find a trilobite in the same layer as a tyrannosaur. You will never find a Pachycephalosaurus in the same rock layer as a saber-tooth tiger. There is an order, oldest to newest, that all fossils should match, and they all match this ordering perfectly. Evolution predicts that older fossils should contain animals with simpler body plans and less variety. Evolution predicts that newer fossils should contain animals with more complex body plans and more variety. If Evolution was correct, then we would expect to find the vast majority of species extinct, while other species would pass on their most useful genes leading to completely different animals further down the evolutionary line with similar body structures.
All of these predictions are confirmed in the fossil record, every last one of them. But it is the order in which they are found that means the most to me. You see, if a god really took a bunch of rocks floating in space and mashed them together to create the earth, then wouldn’t the alien fossils in that rock be all mixed up and non-sequential. Why would god painstakingly put only bacteria fossils down first, then the simple animals, then the strange sea creatures, then the dinosaurs, then the giant sloths and mammoths, and then human fossils on top? Why would he make it look like evolution was real, all over the earth, and in every rock layer? Why would he go to such great lengths to make the fossil record consistent?
My answer to that paradox is simple: “He didn’t.”
3. How could Alien Fossils survive the formation of the earth?
This is a simple question of physics. When rocks get hot enough, they glow red, orange, and yellow and become a viscous liquid magma. When a new planet is formed, it starts out as a molten mess of rock, ice, and heavy elements, all melting, sublimating and fusing together until the surface solidifies. In fact, a large amount of the heat found in the earth’s core today is left over from when our planet formed in the first place! Our planet was once a hellish landscape in the Hadean Eon, only cooling over time enough to form the first layers of its crust.
If God brought the pieces of other planets together to form the earth, how could the fossils in that rock survive this extremely hot and molten formation of the earth about 4.5 Billion years ago? Making a new planet must have generated a tremendous amount of heat, melting all of the alien fossils and rocks in the first place. If the earth didn’t start out as a molten mass, then how would you explain the massive amount of heat still present in earth’s core today? Pressure, tidal forces, and nuclear decay can only get you so far. We even have examples in our own solar system with so-called “dead” planets of solidified rock, so go ahead, how do you explain the excessive amount of heat at the core of the earth?
4. All Fossils fit their Earthly Environment.
One beautiful discovery of science is that geologists have been able to model past formations of our planet’s tectonic plates. More impressive still is that climate scientists have been able to draw from fossil evidence as well as these tectonic arrangements to predict the various climates, environments, and ecosystems of the past 4.5 billion years of Earth’s history to increasingly higher degrees of specificity. The shape, lifestyles, and abundance of ancient animals allow them to perfectly fit niches in the ancient world, conforming perfectly to how natural selection works. The history of the world is like a giant puzzle. Sometimes, we have a ton of information about one thing, but less of another. The more we learn, the clearer our picture of history becomes.
Here is the kicker. We have discovered enough to understand the continuity to the ebb and flow of life on earth. There is continuity to the earth’s climate. An Ice age will be followed by rising sea levels, a massive volcanic eruption will lead to the extinction of many large land animals. It is all connected.
That is why, when scientists and people who are well educated hear the claim that dinosaurs must be aliens, we are often not even sure where to start with our rebuttal. Dinosaur fossils fit the niches of their environments, environments that lead directly to the Earth we see today. There is absolutely no evidence that these creatures lived anywhere else but here.
5. No Experts or Leaders Take This Idea Seriously.
And now to address the 24,000-pound mastodon in the room…
Religious doctrine is not based on evidence or science. That just isn’t how spirituality or faith works. Most often, belief comes after reading or hearing a religious authority such as an expert on scripture, or a church leader.
When was the last time you heard a church leader proudly stand before a congregation and say that ALIENS are the answer to all of the fossils that formed before Adam and Eve? In which holy book or Manuel is this written? What official talk or sermon contains this astonishing doctrine?
Look for it all you want. The truth is that the seminary teachers and theologians who spread this idea are most often doing so under the radar. They tend not to be very confident about it. When I was taught about alien dinosaurs as a child, my Sunday school teachers would shrug their shoulders and hand-wave away any questions we had. This was one of those “great mysteries” that we can expect from such a mysterious god. Later in life, when I brought up the problems with this idea to Mormon Missionaries, they just looked at one another and told me that they couldn’t give me an answer.
I think religious leaders throw their followers under the bus in this case. Thousands of devotees and followers will swear that evidence for aliens can be found in the rock layers all over the earth, but their leaders will never publicly support them or back up this claim. No prominent church authority takes this idea seriously. No scientist takes this idea seriously, and no public school teacher should take this idea seriously.
Dinosaur fossils, just like all other fossils, carry the distinct mark of earth life. The anatomy of these creatures fits perfectly in a long chain of evolution. Their chemistry matches the chemistry of our earth. Their sizes and structures all match the conditions of this earth. Dinosaurs aren’t aliens who (for example) magically look like the perfect missing link between reptiles and birds. The fact is that dinosaurs belong to this planet just as much as we do. They were hatched here, lived here, ate here, and died here. We still can learn much from them about life, history, and our world. Our planet is covered with stone-cold evidence of this, and it is real, no matter which creation myth you choose to believe.
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That is all I have for you today, but the conversation continues across social media and in the comment sections below. Do you agree with today’s message? Am I mistaken about some detail? How can I better elaborate on this topic in the future? Feel free to share your perspective!
Written By Nicholas Burk, Executive Board Member © 2019 Free Thought Initiative