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[personal profile] melanoman
I like to listen to the stories people tell to explain their own existence and search for purpose. Here is something I noticed while listening.

A tiny bit of background first. There is a calculation that is popular among certain Fundamentalist Christians about the world being quite young. They usually pick some age around five thousand to ten thousand years. Some fundamentalists sects have latched onto this number tightly and consider it essential to their theory of creation. They indoctrinate their children with this number and invest a lot of their credibility.

Which brings us to dinosaurs. Most books about dinosaurs have numbers in the millions of years estimating how long ago dinosaurs roamed the earth. When four year old little Janet shows up to her religious service with her Pterry the pteranodon doll and hears from her clergy that the world is thousands of years old right after reading her favorite book about dinosaurs living millions of years ago, there is no force on earth that can stop the question "BUT WHAT ABOUT DINOSAURS!?!?"

Back in the seventies, I heard a clergyman answer that question. He suggested that the dinosaur bones in the ground might have been faked by scientists. Scientists were (and continue to be) a popular villain in these stories. These scientists dedicate their time to elaborate fraud to lure the religious away from their faith. Scientists all over the world were hard at work trying to prove evolution, so being villains they would invent the evidence to support them in the form of dinosaur fossils. Not satisfied with a single explanation, he also suggested that the bones might have been left there by God as a way to test the faithful. Either way, the statement to little Janet was clear; there were no dinosaurs. She would have to choose between her belief in dinosaurs and her belief in God.

The question from all the children like Janet hasn't gone away, but more recently there has been a new story to answer it. Dinosaurs did roam the earth, but they did so alongside humans. There was even a place in the southwest where people could go to see the footprints of human tracking a dinosaur, or perhaps the other way around. The disagreement about the age of the earth hadn't gone away, but now instead of questioning the existence of dinosaurs, the story left room for adventures including them. The book from the scientists suggested that there were no such adventures because the dinosaurs had gone extinct before the humans existed.

The sects with the story that there were no dinosaurs suffered from their conflict with the children who wanted to believe in them. The sects that offered a lost world with dinosaurs and people alive together flourished. Over time, the sects with the older story died out or adopted the new story.

This is how the fundamentalist position on creation has evolved.
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March 2013

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