UPDATE: Ken Ham is steamed that the Washington Post misrepresented the views of his organization, and has issued this tw**t:
HuffPo has a brief piece on the Twitter fight, which isn’t notable except for this reader’s comment:
On December 30, the Washington Post‘s “Health and Science” section (can we please stop mixing those two topics?) published a piece about dinosaurs and Ken Ham’s Ark Park by Vicky Hallett, “Now there’s a theory that dinosaurs were wiped out in Noah’s flood.” While not endorsing that “theory,” Hallett, described as “a freelancer and former MisFits columnist,” says that the dinosaur/flood idea is both new and presented at the “Ark Encounter” theme park (my emphasis in the excerpt from Hallett’s piece below):
Folks who identify as “creation scientists” have no problem with the notion that dinosaurs once roamed the Earth. They just think the beasts lived alongside humans on a planet that’s only about 6,000 years old.
Their extinction theory? The dinos were wiped out 4,000 years ago in the worldwide flood described in Genesis.
This is the version of history on display at the Ark Encounter, a $100 million theme park in Williamstown, Ky., that features a reproduction of Noah’s boat. And it’s the subject of “We Believe in Dinosaurs,” an upcoming documentary that is fundraising through Indiegogo.
It goes on to describe the documentary movie (you might want to contribute to it, as it’s nearing its funding goal), as well as some of the creationist responses to dinosaur fossils. But this very short article makes four errors:
1.) The Ark Park’s dino notion (which Hallett misrepresents; see below) isn’t a “theory”: it’s a wild speculation completely unsupported by evidence. Hallett’s title reinforces the view that an idea as stupid as dinos being wiped out by the Flood can be considered a “theory.” It isn’t, and that plays into the public view that evolution is “only a theory.” It would be better if she’d used “notion” or “idea” rather than “theory.”
2). Ken Ham’s view has never been that all the dinosaurs were wiped out by the Flood. The “version of history on display” at the Ark Encounter that Hallett mentions is not true. In fact, the Ark Park claims that some dinosaurs were actually taken onto the Ark and survived, later to live alongside humans. A PuffHo article says this:
Ham, a “young Earth” creationist, explained in a 2000 blog post exactly how massive dinosaurs could fit on the ship:
“Although there are about 668 names of dinosaurs, there are perhaps only 55 different ‘kinds’ of dinosaurs. Furthermore, not all dinosaurs were huge like the brachiosaurus, and even those dinosaurs on the Ark were probably ‘teenagers’ or young adults.”
Ham said the ark had 8,000 “animal genera” or about 16,000 in total, including some that are now extinct, like those dinosaurs.
“Without getting into all the math, the 16,000-plus animals would have occupied much less than half the space in the Ark (even allowing them some moving-around space),” he wrote.
Along with dinosaurs, NPR reported that there were other eyebrow-raising “animals” on display, including unicorns.
That piece even shows several pictures of dinos on the Ark, including these two—pictures that completely invalidate Hallett’s claim:
And it’s been the consistent position of Answers in Genesis (AIG), Ham’s Organization, that some but not all dinosaurs (like all non-dino species, represented on the Ark only by “kinds”) were drowned in the Flood, but others survived (see this AIG post from 2007 and this one from 2013). The latter says this:
Or can the disappearance of dinosaurs be explained by some other catastrophe? Many dinosaurs died in the global Flood, but not all of them! Two of every kind of air-breathing, land-dwelling animal—and that includes dinosaurs—were on board Noah’s Ark to ride out the Flood, so there were still dinosaurs on the earth after the Flood.
Ham then claims that the factors that drove the dinosaurs extinct after they left the Ark are those things that drive all species extinct, and that some dinosaurs lived until a few centuries ago. (Of course, in reality they’re still with us in the form of birds!):
The global Flood not only changed earth’s surface but also created conditions that produced the Ice Age and ultimately long term changes in climate patterns. All animals had to adjust to new conditions as they reproduced and repopulated the world. Historical accounts and artistic depictions produced in the four thousand plus years since the global Flood have shown that many people around the world have long been familiar with animals that looked like dinosaurs. Therefore it is probable that some kinds of dinosaurs, though rare, were still alive until several centuries ago.
Dinosaurs faced the same sorts of challenges in the post-Flood world that endangered animals do today. In addition to adjusting to habitat changes, alterations in food availability, and competition from other animals, post-Flood dinosaur populations may have gradually succumbed to diseases or been hunted until their populations dwindled. So how did dinosaurs die? The same sorts of problems that drive today’s animals to extinction took their toll on earth’s remaining dinosaurs. But just as we don’t need a cosmic culprit like a giant asteroid to explain the extinction of other animals, we don’t need it to explain why we don’t find dinosaurs in our zoos either.
“Wiped out” means “completely extinct,” “singing with the choir invisible,” or “bereft of life, they rested in peace.” Author Hallett errs in claiming that dinos differed from any other group of animals in their Flood and post-Flood fate.
3.) Other creationist organizations have said that dinos were driven extinct by the Flood, but that theory has been around for a long time (see here, here, and here, for instance). So the “theory” (rather, dumb hypothesis) that the dinos were “wiped out” is neither new nor Ken Ham’s.
4.) Why was this article published given that it was both wrong and not newsworthy? The idea that dinos were either on the Ark or drowned in the Flood is bogus, and every thinking person knows that. There is no evidence for a worldwide flood in the last 10,000 years. Hallett doesn’t really go after the idea very much, either, although statements by others in her article implies that it’s scientifically questionable.
Yes, it’s pretty bad journalism (and I’ll put the link to this post in the 400+ comments after her piece). If you look at some of those comments, you’ll either be heartened by those who defended evolution and criticized the religious claims (most comments), or disheartened by remarks like these: