General Question

earthduzt's avatar

The dragons were actually dinosaurs of myth?

Asked by earthduzt (3215 points ) June 29th, 2010

So…I was watching this documentary last night about how the creationists were trying to disprove evolutionists. The creationist scientists and the religious people in this documentary claim that the world was created six thousand years ago.
They are claiming that the dinosaurs actually walked and lived with humans at that time, they say that is why we have such a universal “myth” about dragons. They claim that there are cave paintings and statues of flying dragons which the “indians” (according to the scientsts) called thunderbirds but were actually the pterosaurs that were using thunderstorms to elevate them to the highest parts of the mountains to their nests. Also in the cave paintings there were pictures of dragons that were similar in look to Sauropods. These people were actually convinced of this and were using this to disprove evolution and the fact that the world is not millions of years old.
Their biggest “go to” was the fact that how did these ancient civilizations all come up with this one universal myth about dragons that spanned all four corners of the Earth? These ancients must have seen them in order to be able to paint pictures of them and carve statues of them and therefore they say dinosaurs actually lived with humans, but the word dinosaur was not around back then and they became sensationalized with fire breathing and magical powers to make them the dragons we know in faery tales and stories. They even cited Beowulf and said that Grendal in the story was actually a dinosaur that existed and that he was actually a Tyrannosaur and that the monster in that story fit the description perfectly. This documentary goes on and on about all these claims.
My question is how do you refute someone that think this is actaully how it is? Are we really just guessing about when dinosaurs lived on this Earth? I’m no palentologist but can’t we just shut this theory down by comapring bones of one of their anicent humans that according to them lived with these creatures with a bone of a dinosaur? I just cannot believe that there are people in the world that would believe this theory and I want to be able to refute it if I ever come accross one.

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48 Answers

PandoraBoxx's avatar

We know when dinosaurs live on the earth by carbon dating their bones. Carbon is created by pressure of the earth on organic matter, and the longer its been around, the carbon takes on a different molecular structure.

Beowulf is fiction, created by a person. Arguably, the Bible is a collection of oral tradition, written down by people, edited by yet other people, and re-edited again by every addition of the bible that’s published. What’s in the bible over time has been skewed to the agenda of the publishing entity.

You cannot refute someone that thinks this way; change the topic to the weather. It’s less frustrating.

earthduzt's avatar

@PandoraBoxx I suppose that’s what I would have to do, it was really pissing me off though watching them spew such drivel. I don’t mind them being religious and all (just don’t push it on me) but to listen to them actually trying to create evidence to show that their theory is 100% correct and factual was unreal.
The Beowulf citing they explained it as the author who wrote the story was in contact with a T-Rex and that is why he put “Grendel” in the sotry and these creationists found that Grendel behaved adn acted like a T Rex and so the author MUST have had some contact with one.

Steve_A's avatar

Well if they could find all the bones of humans and dinosaurs on earth then I suppose you would know for sure right?

Of course that is close to impossible. Not mention questions like this really have no answer, not yet anyways.

PandoraBoxx's avatar

There is a life skill known as “discernment.” This is the evaluation process of deciding if what you’re watching is crap or not crap. If you decide it’s crap, you change the channel or leave. You can only change or influence people who have doubts and want to be changed.

earthduzt's avatar

@PandoraBoxx I know I could stop the show, I guess though sometimes I like to inflict pain on myself and watch these sort of things just to see how the “other half” is…even if it does piss me off.

Kayak8's avatar

If you liked the documentary, then the Creation Museum will really appeal to you. I have groups of friends who have gone to the “museum” just to see what they have and what message is being espoused. The “museum” has promotional billboards in Kentucky and up into Ohio. One of them used to feature a man riding a dinosaur . . . . and in Kansas they have to teach creationism. It’s a good thing that some things are Darwinian—I imagine that some of these are the same folks you see attempting stunts on Jackass, taking their infants for rides on their lawn tractors, and starting their grills with gasoline . . .

ninjacolin's avatar

I always thought it was possible that people of old (5000 years ago and/or more, but after the dinosaur era) uncovered or came across uncovered dinosaur bones and stories of “dragons” sprang up from these findings. not having a sense of how old such monstrous bones might be, rumors of a potentially encountering a living “dragon” may have been born.

ragingloli's avatar

First of all, we do not use carbon dating to determine the age of dinosaur fossils. Carbon 14 has a very short half life and the method becomes useless for fossils older than about 60 thousand years.
For dinosaurs we use uranium, which has a half life of many million years, found in volcanic rock or volcanic ash in the same layer as the fossil or in neighbouring layers.
Needless to say that no human fossils have ever been found in the same layer as dinosaurs (if we exclude modern birds which would technically qualify as dinosaurs).
Then there is the matter of them using myths and fiction to ‘prove’ their hypotheses.
Where do you stop? What do you exclude from that? Going by myths, it would also ‘prove’ the existence of trolls, fairies, unicorns, 7 headed monsters, mermaids, bull-human fusions, scylla and charybdis, gnomes that guard pots of gold at the end of rainbows, vampires, werewolves and last but not least, talking snakes. To claim that any of these actually existed in the described form would be righfully called insane, but to exclude even one of these would be entirely arbitrary, but somehow ‘dragons’ are the exeption?
Not to mention that the most popular dragons run counter to evolution. For example the most common variant with four legs plus an extra pair of wings. That makes six extremeties. We do not even have any fish fossils with 6 extremeties, let alone any of later species.
Think about what it means to have an entire population of 6-extremity animals: All of those would have to be descendents of an entire evolutionary line of 6 legged animals, that means millions of individuals over millions of years of evolution. You would think there would be at least 1 fossil with 6 extremities or at least the first beginnings of the 3rd pair. But there is none. Nada.
And onegai shimasu, do not call them creationist ‘scientists’. That is an insult to real scientists all over the world.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

I am sure other people will adequately answer your other points, but I would like to point out that Grendel was not a Tyrannosaur. Tyrannosaurs had spindly little front legs that were practically only used for balance. Grendel had huge hands and powerful arms with which he could pick up a warrior. Tearing the arm of a Tyrannosaur like Beowulf did would hardly be an achievement for such a proud warrior, and when mounted it would not be a fearsome monument, but a scrap of meat nailed to a plank.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Don’t waster your time. You just have to let them believe what they want to believe.
Send them a copy of a Flintstones video and name your dog “Dino”. They’ll love it.

Do you thing the “myth” comes from early humans finding fossils and trying to explain them? China is a treasure trove of fossils and was a very advanced society well before the rest of the world. The message could easily have spread from there.

I still prefer Betty over Wilma.

earthduzt's avatar

@ragindoll I know I hesitate to call them scientists, I was just calling them what “they” call themselves “Creationist Biologists”.

@FireMadeFlesh Yeah they knew he wasnt a T Rex they just said he had many similarities and acted like one or some similar dinosaur. So they were sayuing that the author must have had some sort of contact with one and he added and subtracted what he wanted from it to make his monster in the story.

@worriedguy They tried to answer that question also, and they stated that Palentology was not their thing back then so there is no way they could have got the anatomy as well as the environment in which some of these cave paintings, statues, and whatnot had put these dragons in. They even tried to use Dr. Carl Sagan (which is a strong advocate for evolution) as bumbling his own theory stating that humans probably were able to imagine up dragons due to us being evolved eventually from reptiles millions up millions of years ago and that it was just leftover from the “reptile in our mind” which these creationists viewed as rediculous.

ragingloli's avatar

As for the Beowulf story, it itself had its orgin in the 6th or 7th century BCE, which makes it less than 2000 years old.
According to creationists themselves, dinosaurs were supposedly wiped out in the great flood over 4000 years ago, so the author of Beowulf could not have had contact with a Tyrannosaurus, even in their own little creationist reality.
They spew fantasy after fantasy, invariably contradicting themselves eventually and they do not even realise that. That is why they must not be taken seriously.

mattbrowne's avatar

Dragons look like reptiles.

CMaz's avatar

We live with dinosaurs today.
Living in Florida, they are all over my house.

ETpro's avatar

Creationist and scientist paire together is an oxymoron of monumental proportions. To believe the Earth is 6,000 years old, there is a veritable mountain of evidence you have to deliberately ignore, and not a shred of evidence in support of the conclusion. Science is about being guided by what you see and observe and can verify, not what your belief system tells you to “see.”

That said, it is quite likely that early man found fossil remains of dinosaurs and, filling in the blanks with imagination as early man was wont to do, constructed the idea of dragons.

earthduzt's avatar

@ETpro that’s what baffles me about their theory, how can they deny facts that “true science” lays upon their table? I guess it’s just not a winning battle with them. Like I said they can believe what they want to believe as far as their Gods and religious beliefs but to try and disprove how old the Earth is and the animals that inhabited it at one point seems very crazy to me. Is there no better way for them to explain dinosaurs (that evidently their whole creationist ideas seem to be threatened by) I guess it’s a lost cause with them or trying to battle them.

ragingloli's avatar

They have to. They start with the conclusion, namely “What the bible says is literally true”. Then reality contradicts them, so they have to ignore the contradicting evidence and they have to twist and cherrypick facts to keep their belief alive.

Qingu's avatar

@earthduzt, most of the dinosaurs you described actually had feathers, including the T-rex, so… no, the myths don’t actually describe dinosaurs. Perhaps if they described “giant bird” monsters.

Also, just because a creature is universal in myth doesn’t mean it actually exists or is a real thing. Look at sphinxes. The Egyptians, Babylonians, Greeks and (iirc) Chinese all had sphinxes—creatures with lion bodies, eagle wings, and human faces. In Islam, Muhammad is said to have rode up into the sky on the back of al-Buraq, a sphinx-like creature.

Why would all these cultures describe the same mythical creature? Well, for starters, it’s an easy “composite creature”—like a dragon, you get a sphinx pretty easily by just combining animals you know about into an even cooler creature. Secondly, it’s likely that many sphinx myths are derivative of each other—the Greeks may have gotten the idea from the Egyptians, for example.

CMaz's avatar

Let’s not forget the banana.

Qingu's avatar

The most bizarre thing about creationists isn’t even that they believe dinosaurs co-existed with people. It’s that they actually believe in evolution. Their version of evolution just happens at a magically fast rate.

They think Noah only took several hundred/thousand/whatever “kinds” of animals on the ark—not all the species (there are 1 million species of insects alone). The millions of current species all magic-evolved from the fewer number of animals on the ark, in the past 6,000 years. And then they say evolution can’t happen… wheeeee!

ragingloli's avatar

Oh yeah, the banana. Using a domesticated plant as an example of divine design = massive fail.

LuckyGuy's avatar

The next time they get sick, ask them if they want to take only the antibiotics that worked on old testament bacteria, or the newer, more potent kinds that work on the recently evolved drug resistant varieties.
And give them a Flintstones CD. Yabba dabba doo.

the100thmonkey's avatar

“Second, we show that corrective information in news reports
may fail to reduce misperceptions and can sometimes increase them for the ideological
group most likely to hold those misperceptions.”

From this important paper on belief and misconceptions. I would generalise the point (dangerous, I know) to assert that evidence that contradicts a belief can actually entrench the belief more deeply.

Perhaps there is no negotiating with the worldview, and it should just be ignored – maladaptive beliefs will tend to be weeded out.

Trillian's avatar

I read that Grendal was probably one of the last Neandertal man at a time when Neandertal and Cro-magnon overlapped. Just like the eaters of the dead recorded by Ahmad Ibn Fadlan who was apparently a real historic figure.
I don’t know how true any of it is but it sounded plausible to me.

ragingloli's avatar

why would an author depict a Neanderthaler as a grotesque monster when homo sapiens actually interbred with them?

Qingu's avatar

@Trillian, the Neandertal-CroMagnon interaction was way way way earlier than Beowulf, and it’s doubtful the medieval northerners would have remembered anything like that moreso than any other culture.

delirium's avatar

If you’ve ever seen a chinese alligator in person, you’ll realize where all those dragon images and myths come from.

A couple of images:

Adult chinese alligators
Baby chinese alligator
Egg laden female

keobooks's avatar

I remember reading somewhere that the myth of the Cyclops began when ancient greeks dug up some mammoth bones and thought they were giant human bones. The nasal cavity of the mammoth was thought to be a giant eye socket. We know that mammoths and humans actually did coexist at one point, but it was long before the Ancient Greeks were around. They still got it wrong because the greeks hadn’t seen anything like a mammoth in their lifetimes and were just guessing.

People have to remember that a lot of pre-modern science was guesswork and storytelling used to figure out what things were. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to find out that ancient pre-archeologists discovered dinosaur bones and guessed that they were dragons. That would be a closer guess than mammoths/cyclops. It doesn’t mean that anyone actually witnessed the creatures walking around.

syzygy2600's avatar

I have two theories:

One is that a few dinosaurs, or species that evolved from dinosaurs, survived into middle ages. I have a very old book that describes the last dragon in Europe as being slain in Scotland around 1550. There is evidence that woolly mammoths survived on a small island until about only 2,500 years ago, so this is a remote possibility.

my other theory is that dragons were tornadoes. The first officially recorded tornado was in Rosdalla, Irleand in 1054, and an eyewitness report describes it as “carrying away a tree in it’s talons”

zophu's avatar

People weren’t always able to express their amazing experiences honestly. “I found this awesome looking lizard. It ate this ant with its long-ass tongue. I mean, it was beautiful and shit!” So, eventually, storytellers embellish the details to children who are gullible enough to believe, their parents humor the stories because it excites the kids with awe. The lizard becomes as big as a horse and the tongue becomes flame. Those kids grow up, tell their kids. A few generations of this and without the skepticism born of scientific documentation these stories become legends. The lizards become bigger than a hillside and can fly, naturally. I suspect the legends would have never been popular if so many cultures didn’t thrive on escapism due to their traditionally shitty circumstances. The beautiful lizards in the forests would have been enough to inspire awe for healthy people, because they would see the interconnectedness and other hippie shit.

Oh! I didn’t even consider the fact that people would find the fossils of giant animals they couldn’t identify. What would you think if you found and put together a massive rock-hard skeleton of a giant lizard with wings without science to tell you that it was just a dinosaur with a lot of rib bones? Maybe you didn’t have to be an escapist to appreciate the idea of dragons as an ancient man . . . (you probably do as a modern man, though.)

I saw a documentary where it was recorded that ancient peoples were finding mammoth bones and thought they were giant-human bones. They assembled the bones all wonky and built massive graves for the dead superhumans they saw in their heads. Humans are all about making things stronger, faster, better and whatever else was in that daft punk song. Kind of inspiring.

Qingu's avatar

@syzygy2600, lots of dinosaurs did survive. They’re called birds. :)

PandoraBoxx's avatar

“I got an e-mail from a guy whose father built a ladder high in the sky in Bermuda, and recorded the sounds of heaven, real proof of heaven.”

“I got an e-mail from a guy whose uncle had audio tapes that he got from a guy that sounds of hell that I recently cleaned up to make a cleaner copy.”

“My hairdresser’s sister’s brother-in-law was abducted by aliens. It’s true.”

Trillian's avatar

@Qingu well, I as I said I don’t know enough about it. What about the other instance? And do you have any theories about what manner of being Beowulf was? I don’t devote any study time to this particular thing, but it does interest me when I hear about it.

Qingu's avatar

Hm, I don’t know much about Beowulf. Weren’t there three monsters in it? Grendel, Grendel’s mum, and then the fire-breathing dragon?

Beowulf himself seemed like a classic barbarian hero…

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@Trillian Beowulf was a man, who was an extremely powerful warrior. Grendel and his mother were sea hags (I don’t remember whether this was in the text or if it is just a popular theory). Grendel had tough scaly skin that no blade could penetrate, large hands and strong arms with which he could throw tables and pick up grown men with ease. He was bipedal. Beowulf famously killed him by tearing off his arm, and he bled out as he ran back to his home.
Grendel’s mother mainly used her teeth as weapons, I think, and when Beowulf killed her, her body dissolved the blade of the sword.
The dragon in the third section is your stereotypical The Hobbit style dragon, although I don’t think there is any mention of the weak spot on the chest.
It has been about two years since I read it, so what I have said may need some qualification.

@Qingu There were also the sea-serpents (I think they were) that Beowulf fought and killed underwater during his sea race against Breca.

Trillian's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh and @Quingu sigh….I meant Grendel.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@Trillian I know that was petty, which is why I added the information on the other monsters. I hope I answered your question anyway.

Trillian's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh Not really, but thank you for that admission.
I just meant that legend is often based on some sort of fact, and if Grendel were not some Neandertal man, which would explain his strength and the fact that the others saw him as monstrous or misshapen, what was he?

ragingloli's avatar

What was the Hydra based on? Or Scylla and Charybdis?
Maybe they are entirely fictional?
Besides, it is not as if all humans are born perfect. Grotesqe deformations not unheard of.

Trillian's avatar

@ragingloli I don’t know about all of your myths, but I believe that is has been postulated that in the strait during that time frame the islands were undergoing volcanic activity, and the idea of sulfurous smelling water steaming and hissing gave rise to the Scylla, and a vortex or boat chewing bunch of rocks was the origins for the Charbydis.

Qingu's avatar

Hydra is a composite creature. It’s an animal made of a bunch of snakes.

People form monsters and other things of fantasy and myth from real-life creatures and objects.

The flipside to this is that the realm of fantasy is enriched as we expand our knowledge of real-life creatures and objects. Notice how there aren’t any ancient Siphonophore monsters or killer robot myths?

Our modern myths are cooler than the ancient myths, because we have more facts to build them with.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@Trillian Not every monster has to be based on a real creature. He could be the personification of a disease even. The story does not rely on previous knowledge of Grendel’s species, as stories of men fighting dragons do. Everyone knows the features of a dragon, but Grendel’s features are very specifically described as if he is unique.

Beowulf was written at a time when Christianity was starting to spread to Denmark etc., and many see Grendel as one of the monsters born of Cain’s curse. In this, he is probably purely fictional, but given human characteristics because of his distant human lineage.

Trillian's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh I re read my posts just in case. Nowhere did I state that every monster was based on a real creature.
However, your statement that he could be the personification of a disease would validate any such conjecture concerning Grendel.
I love mythology and often wonder at the descriptive language, like the wife of Neptune’s curse on him regarding the sea nymph he was keeping, when he next hasex with her, his ejaculate turned her vagina into a grotto.
In the case of some myths I can get a vague sense of where it came from and how it came about and some elude me. Forgive my imperfect comprehension or not, as you will, but I will not defend a position that I did not take in the first place.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@Trillian I said “not every…” to say that Grendel is not necessarily based on a real creature, as you suggested that he may have been a Neanderthal. Some are based on real creatures, some are not. Obviously you never suggested that they all are.
I generally don’t attempt to see where myths came from, I just enjoy appreciating them for their creativity and occasional insight. It doesn’t really matter why Volsung was born at the age of six able to walk and talk, it just makes great reading!
You don’t have to defend a position at all here, because we are not having an argument. I was just speculating, not promoting a hypothesis.
I’m going to have to read about that myth, I had never heard of it!

Trillian's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh copy that. It was Minos who had the sea nymph mistress and his wife, Pasiphae who cursed him. The involvement of Neptune/Poseidon was peripheral in that he punished Minos for not sacrificing the “Great bull fron the depths” for which he had prayed to Neptune and been greanted. You may be familiar with the punishment; the bull went mad, and the god caused Mino’s wife to fall in love with it. With the help of Daedalus, father of Icarus, she used a contraption which allowed her to be inside an artificial cow when the bull mounted it, thus mounting her as well. The Minotaur was the result.
I just mention here that Minos was actually referenced by Herodotus as a great military leader, and also by the Athenian historian Thucydides.
This is what intrigues me, the mixture of factual persons and mythological events or beings. I think you can thank Heinrich Schleimann. I read The Greek Treasure when I was a kid, and when I learned that he found ancient troy with his intellect and a copy of The Illiad, I was hooked.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@Trillian I vaguely recognise the story. It reminds me of when Inanna sent the Bull of Heaven to destroy Gilgamesh, after he scorned her love. All I know is that Minos kept the Minotaur in the Labyrinth, and was killed by Thesus when the lady of the labyrinth gave away his secret (I think).
The mixture of reality and mythology is amazing. I particularly like Norse and Icelandic mythology, because they are so isolated geographically and it is well preserved and does not draw influence from as many quarters.

Trillian's avatar

Minos was killed in Sicily on a vengance trip. He was attempting to punish Daedalus who had ascaped from the labrynth. He was either killed in a war which ensued when the King of Sicioly refused to give up Daedalus, or by trechary. The king agreed to give up Daedalus after a banquet. Minos was bathing with the Kings daughters beforehand and they poured boiling water on his head.
I prefer the second version.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

Ouch. Come to think of it, me too!

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