“It is bad news to science museums when four in ten Americans believe humans lived with dinosaurs, and fewer than two in ten understand the terms molecule and DNA.” (Larry Witham)
Road tripping east from Utah’s Wasatch mountains along isolated State Road 40, Ruth and I entered an arid plateau of colorfully layered cliffs bearing fossiled evidence of life’s evolution on a grand scale. Picture land roaming dinosaurs flourishing here in a warm and wet climate of lush forests and low lying seas hundreds of million years ago. Imagine the sudden extinction of these powerful reptiles with their skeletal remains scattered along dried river beds and nearby canyons. Such prehistoric riches laid bare the prospect for human scientific investigation.
In the town of Vernal Utah, the rise and fall of dinosaur life eons ago became intriguingly real for us in our visit to the the Utah Field House of Natural History there. Through interactive displays, we first discovered the sights/sounds of of a modern day dinosaur dig site. In the Fossil Lab, we then noted how excavated fossils specimens were carefully handled through a tedious uncovering, casting, and preserving process. Entering a a tunnel of prehistoric time passage, we next moved to the Jurassic Hall, examining authentic dinosaur skeletal remains lifted from the fossil beds of the “Morrison Formation” in the surrounding Vernal vicinity. Venturing outside the facility, we spotted Dinosaur Garden, displaying fourteen, life-size creatures, set within a prehistoric plants life setting.
Back on the road heading to our next destination, Steamboat Springs Colorado,I pondered some reasonable scientific assumptions made from our Vernal Museum visit.(1) Dinosaurs existed millions of years before humans.(2) Extreme changes to earth’s water,land, or air over eons of time best explains how dinosaurs and later humans could become extinct on earth.(3) The sheer quantity of real dinosaur specimens that I viewed today provided considerable evidence of life’s slow time procession on earth in an “evolutionary” fashion.
It’s clear that scientists and religious zealots continue to be at war over this issue. For instance, many Americans today show disdain for evolutionary talk in our country. Notably, a recent U.S.poll in 2016 found that more than 35% of those surveyed agreed with the statement “humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time”. I proceeded to delve into this issue further. At the Creation Museum in Northern Kentucky,I noted an impressive showcase of biblical explanations for life’s first appearance wherein God created the earth and life less than 10,000 years ago, with humans and dinosaurs coexisting together in time. I also discovered evidence for the “Creationist “ ideal of life’s existence on earth at the Ark Encounter Museum, also in Kentucky. Displaying a full-size model of the famous ark, this controversial tourist center promoted the biblical legend that Noah saved a select group of humans/animals,(including dinosaurs) 4450 years ago in an immense boat from a catastrophic flood on earth.
So the next time you see a child engaged in play with a toy dinosaur, what would you tell them about where and when these scary creatures came from?