Dragons or Dinosaurs (2010) is going to be impossible to review because it goes in to too many different subjects and arguments beyond comparing dragon legends to dinosaurs. Essentially, the main premise is a lead-in to an overview of creationism which is fine if the video was subtitled “An Overview of Creationism” but I was expecting something much different. What I was anticipating was an actual exploration of dragon legends and art and how they related to dinosaurs. The first section of film starts with a broad overview of the subject and then touches on a couple of different instances which were somewhat interesting, but then Darek Isaacs (the director/producer) never goes deeper beyond references to “Behemoth” and “Leviathan.” I’ve been hearing about Behemoth and Leviathan since I was a kid. There’s nothing ever new with creationism it seems.
The way I would have structured it would be to do the overview and then go from location to location and focus on the specific legends region by region; where people think the stories came from and what dinosaurs might the legends be. They sort of do that sporadically, but it’s not organized. It’s almost if Isaacs can’t wait to get to all the old arguments about the flood, dating methods, the fossil record, etc, that we’ve heard time and time again. Even from a creationist perspective I kept thinking “stay on subject” and “you’re going to bore the hell out of kids.” If you think the DVD is not aimed at kids then why the intro and interruptions with the book plug for Danny the Dragon (never mind that there is already a Danny the Dragon book written by a different author–maybe the two Dannys can battle it out).
Otherwise, despite what I consider a structuring problem and a delving deeper into the dragon legends, the production values and interviews are relatively good. It’s a shame we do not get opposing viewpoints, but this is an opinion piece more or less of Isaacs creation. Many of the creationists involved are scientists in some manner and I would not call them unintelligent, they are simply irrational and frankly don’t present anything new. I don’t even feel qualified to counter some of their arguments on topics ranging from geology to radioactive dating (better to be read by other professionals in the field and it’s all on the web, folks). Most evolutionary scientists have better things to do then reviewing this propaganda. It is left up to a cartoonist to ask some obvious questions about this nonsense.
Here is my basic argument. In Dragons or Dinosaurs, one of the commentators mentions how many times the King James’ Bible mentions dragons and then later Bible translations changed the word so that it no longer felt like a mythological reference such as using some other animal instead of dragon. Accessing BibleOnTheWeb.com (a great resource) I searched for the word “dragon” in the King James version (Old Testament only) and got several references:
Deuteronomy 32:33 – Their wine is the poison of dragons, and the cruel venom of asps.
Nehemiah 2:13 – And I went out by night by the gate of the valley, even before the dragon well, and to the dung port, and viewed the walls of Jerusalem, which were broken down, and the gates thereof were consumed with fire.
Job 30:29 – I am a brother to dragons, and a companion to owls.
Psalms 44:19 – Though thou hast sore broken us in the place of dragons, and covered us with the shadow of death.
Psalms 74:13 – Thou didst divide the sea by thy strength: thou brakest the heads of the dragons in the waters.
Psalms 91:13 – Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet.
Psalms 148:7 – Praise the LORD from the earth, ye dragons, and all deeps:
Isaiah 13:22 – And the wild beasts of the islands shall cry in their desolate houses, and dragons in their pleasant palaces: and her time is near to come, and her days shall not be prolonged.
Isaiah 27:1 – In that day the LORD with his sore and great and strong sword shall punish leviathan the piercing serpent, even leviathan that crooked serpent; and he shall slay the dragon that is in the sea.
Isaiah 34:13 – And thorns shall come up in her palaces, nettles and brambles in the fortresses thereof: and it shall be an habitation of dragons, and a court for owls.
What do all these dragon references mean? Are they just other animals or mythical references? Further study is required, but I do have to ask why God feels it necessary to punish leviathan if leviathan, according to this DVD, is a dinosaur? Sounds more like a reference to Satan. Per Wiki, leviathan “…is a sea monster referred to in the Bible. In Demonology, Leviathan is one of the seven princes of Hell and its gatekeeper.” I’m not sure that qualifies as a dinosaur? Creationists can say the reference is more general, as in a sea monster, but again, why punish an animal living in the ocean. More likely we are dealing with myths when it comes to both Behemoth and Leviathan–there is no need to compare them to any animal. Again, per Wiki “Later Jewish sources describe Leviathan as a dragon who lives over the Sources of the Deep and who, along with the male land-dragon Behemoth, will be served up to the righteous at the end of time.”
So my next search was for the word “unicorn.” And here we go:
Numbers 23:22 – God brought them out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn.
Numbers 24:8 – God brought him forth out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn: he shall eat up the nations his enemies, and shall break their bones, and pierce them through with his arrows.
Deuteronomy 33:17 – His glory is like the firstling of his bullock, and his horns are like the horns of unicorns: with them he shall push the people together to the ends of the earth: and they are the ten thousands of Ephraim, and they are the thousands of Manasseh.
Job 39:9 – Will the unicorn be willing to serve thee, or abide by thy crib?
Job 39:10 – Canst thou bind the unicorn with his band in the furrow? or will he harrow the valleys after thee?
Psalms 22:21 – Save me from the lion’s mouth: for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns.
Psalms 29:6 – He maketh them also to skip like a calf; Lebanon and Sirion like a young unicorn.
Psalms 92:10 – But my horn shalt thou exalt like the horn of an unicorn: I shall be anointed with fresh oil.
Isaiah 34:7 – And the unicorns shall come down with them, and the bullocks with the bulls; and their land shall be soaked with blood, and their dust made fat with fatness.
Start to get my point? If we are to assume references to dragons in the Bible are dinosaurs, then what are unicorns? Or are creationists saying that the traditional understanding of unicorns is correct?
Think I’m being unfair? Let’s try a search for “satyr”:
Isaiah 13:21 – But wild beasts of the desert shall lie there; and their houses shall be full of doleful creatures; and owls shall dwell there, and satyrs shall dance there.
Isaiah 34:14 – The wild beasts of the desert shall also meet with the wild beasts of the island, and the satyr shall cry to his fellow; the screech owl also shall rest there, and find for herself a place of rest.
What else would a satyr be but half man, half goat?You can make multiple arguments about why these Biblical authors would reference dragons, unicorns or satyrs, but that IS the point. The Bible is not a trustworthy source for scientific investigation. It’s full of myths or mythological words that are mistranslations or misunderstandings or simply references to ancient myths. We may be dealing with nonexisting creatures or creatures that were ill-named as pointed out by Apologetic Press (with a Christian bias). Apologetic Press explains unicorns as a type of wild ox (and references the “infidel” Isaac Asimov–yes, they referred to him as an “infidel”) and satyrs as hairy men or goats. They also can excuse such references as poetic or metaphors to relate to the people of their time who believed in such creatures. How are we to separate fact from fancy? If satyr is used as a playful reference, then did Satan really speak to Eve through a snake? Why isn’t that allegory? Christian literalists love to have it both ways. If it is too fanciful then we can chalk it up to poetics, but if it is part of the accepted creationist theory then it is fact–in other words, animals lining up two by two is fact but a satyr is just thrown in to relate to pagans. To me, ultimately if God is wanting to get his history across he is a lousy communicator to give us a book that has to be studied by theologians, archaeologists, linguists and mythologists just to understand it.
Now, leaving that all behind, let’s ask more of the obvious. All of those interviewed kept insisting that dragon art and dragon legends could not exist without living dinosaurs. Humans had to co-exist with dinos for them to be able to produce this material all over the world. Sounds like the same style of argument that Erich Von Daniken made in Chariots of the Gods—it’s all too incredible for human imagination, must be aliens! Ironically, it was a Christian author and young earth creationist Clifford Wilson who proved him wrong with the release of his book Crash go the Chariots.
One of the creationists even references Carl Sagan and his book Dragons of Eden and that Sagan got it wrong when he speculated that dragon myths were a result of primitive fears of reptiles. The correct answer apparently is we lived with these reptiles/dinosaurs which I’m sure Sagan, if still alive, would dispute wholeheartedly.
As mentioned in my Freethunk Newsbite on Darek Isaacs, there is one glaring alternative explanation–found fossils. This is also dismissed by the creationists in the video because they say that the ancient artists would not be able to reconstruct the anatomy of a fossil like a paleontologist. Unfortunately, the primitive art did not show me that was necessary. There was no art that was a detailed, anatomical representation of a T-Rex, there was possibly art that could be inspired by a T-Rex. If you found a T-Rex skull with all of those nasty teeth–only the skull–wouldn’t that run your imagination wild? Sorry, I think it is a valid explanation, though certainly we do not have a definite answer.
Also, what about Asian dragons? What dinosaurs do they represent? Is it possible that human imagination is more “imaginative” than creationists give us credit for? When I look at Asian dragons I see a combination of snakes and lion heads–a chimera of sorts. I’m not saying that is where it came from, but no where did I hear creationists suggest that dragons could be the combination of two different animals. Chinese dragons have a very distinct non-dinosaur look with frills, flowing mustaches and unusual ornamentation. It’s nice to match up a crude cave drawing to a sauropod because it has a long neck, but what about the highly detailed art. The more detail, the more fanciful it seems. Unless these are dinos we’re not aware of, their heads are so ornamental that they contrast with other dragon art such as European dragons. Also, one creationist in the video made the implication that dragon art often featured 3 toes like a T-Rex would have. If you look up Chinese Dragon in Wiki, you get this: “In the Zhou Dynasty, the 5-clawed dragon was assigned to the Son of Heaven, the 4-clawed dragon to the Zhuhou (seigneur), and the 3-clawed dragon to the Daifu. In the Qing Dynasty, the 5-clawed dragon was assigned to represent the Emperor while the 4-clawed and 3-clawed dragons were assigned to the commoners.”
It’s more meaningless references that simply add up to speculation that is confusing. It never fully adds up with a matching of one piece of art to a specific dinosaur and then another and another and we should expect to match the art to the dinosaurs known to have been in the regions the art was made. I can draw the conclusion that we have dragon legends all over the world simply because we have reptiles all over the world and the power of human imagination. I can throw in fossil remains because certainly, while our ancestors were not paleontologists, they saw more muscles and tendons than the average American eating his pre-killed McDonald’s burger.
What Isaacs doesn’t explore are the actual implications of dinosaurs and humans co-existing. In many ancient cultures, we have tribal art with the bones and teeth of prey used to make jewelry or to carve on. Where are the T-Rex teeth from the triumphant kill of the “dragon” that have been made into a necklace? Where are the dinosaur bones with the spear tip embedded into them or signs of a human killing them for meat like they did the mammoths? Where are the fossil remains of a smaller dinosaur predator with the remains of raccoon in its stomach (or pick any modern mammal)? And lastly, if the flood is the reason for all of the fossils on earth, then where are the human remains found amongst dinosaur remains or even modern mammal remains found in the same manner. Isaacs has left too many unanswered questions and filled his exploration with old hat creationism that does not relate to his premise.
This is the “Flintstones Syndrome” and like The Flintstones humans would have had interactions with living dinosaurs and yet we don’t have evidence of that. And how ridiculous it would be to try and live with dinosaurs? When you study how efficient some of the predators were at killing (big and small) and how huge the herbivores got–would humans have been able to deal with that? They would have been stepped on or eaten as snacks, much like the inside cover of my Best of Freethunk book which has a T-Rex eating Jesus on the cross. Nature always has a balance between predator and prey, there is no balance if you throw every known creature onto the planet at once. Mammals only began to thrive when their dino competition was wiped out.
I think Darek Isaac’s initial premise is a valid one for exploration: where did all the dragon legends come from? But his conclusion is simple-minded and flies in the face of mainstream science. As usual, there may be multiple explanations for the art and legends and denying the power of human imagination is a big mistake. In mythology, artists draw based on observation and then combine or exaggerate. Humans in general can come up with outrageous images without being able to draw. That’s why we have mermaids and then subsequently mermaid sightings by sailors. That’s why we have Bigfoot and decades of sightings including stories and art. Because Isaacs discounts an old earth he doesn’t reach another conclusion, that over the course of more than his accepted 6,000 years, the legend of the dragon transformed and multiplied giving us the variety of art and myths. I’m sorry to disappoint, but Beowulf is not paleontology (and yes, Beowulf was brought out as a witness to dragons in this exploration, I’m not kidding).
I’m sure my review here is incomplete. I definitely beg comment for any of my own inaccuracies. However, I believe I have presented many of the obvious problems with the DVD’s conclusions. Dragons or Dinosaurs is a nice piece of blind propaganda. I encourage everyone to watch it themselves because my hope is that even the Christian can step back and ask, “Is this what I really believe?”
SIDENOTE: Again, too much material to cover but this DVD and creationists in general are jumping on the discovery of T-Rex soft tissue. I have yet to hear of Mary Schweitzer, the discoverer of the tissue, coming out and saying that it means the T-Rex died within the last 6000 years. Fact is, some of the tissue samples are providing more evidence that birds are related to dinosaurs. Soft tissue from fossilized bones does not automatically equal a young animal, it simply means we didn’t realize it was possible. Per Wiki, “Until these finds, most scientists presumed that fossilization replaced all living tissue with inert minerals.” This finding is also still being debated so to say it is evidence for the Bible is more pie in the sky thinking. Creationists need to realize they have bigger questions to answer like: Why did God design T-Rex with those massive teeth to kill? And if you don’t already know, creationists say that what we know as predators today were once vegetarians in the Garden of Eden. Now I’m sorry, even if you don’t accept evolution, that’s just stupid. Try feeding a shark a salad.