So this week for Aleteia I reviewed The Croods, a movie I felt managed to pull a last minute save and extract itself from the near-omnipresent “children know best” theme found in most other animated features these days. Be warned, however, premier Catholic movie critic Steven D. Greydanus had very much the opposite reaction. But regardless of which side you choose, if there’s one thing we can all agree was missing from The Croods, it would probably be dinosaurs. Oh sure, I realize that since The Croods are an even more modern stone age age family than The Flinstones, they’ve got to be historically accurate and can’t have cavemen running around with sauropods. But still, weren’t cartoons much more fun when the facts didn’t matter…
Of course, there are some folks out there who believe the occasional mentions of dragons, leviathans, and behemoths in the bible indicate the possibility of dinosaur-like creatures running around in ancient times. The majority of modern theologians, however, tend to accept the current scientific theory that dinosaurs predated the appearance of humans and that those creatures in the bible were something else entirely.
Which leads to an interesting question for Christians, assuming current theories are correct, why did God bother creating dinosaurs to begin with? The short answer is, we just don’t know. From a pragmatic standpoint, it could just be simply that in order for a world to develop where humans could exist, maybe something like the dinosaurs were necessary to help get the place ready. Heck, there’s still things floating around today that we haven’t discovered yet, but they’re part of an ecosystem somewhere. So there’s that idea.
But since God works on any number of levels simultaneously, Michelle Arnold, apologist for Catholic Answers, postulates some possible philosophical reasons behind the existence of dinosaurs, notions such as:
“Dinosaurs teach that there is such a thing as universal death, which is one of St. Thomas Aquinas’s five arguments for the existence of God.”
“Dinosaurs teach the possibility of life after death. There may be no dinosaurs currently inhabiting our world, but, in a certain sense, they live on today — in our imaginations, in our scientific studies, in our hope that we may one day see such extraordinary creatures in the next life.”
“The existence of dinosaurs forces believers to more deeply understand their religion and thus more deeply understand God’s hand at work in the world. Questions of the creation of the universe are thrown into a new light and we are forced to re-assess the merit of apparently simple understandings of divine revelation through the Church and the Bible.”
“The existence of dinosaurs forces unbelievers to re-assess their rejection of God that may be based at least partly upon the fact that they have not seen him with their own eyes. The fact that there are created beings that we know existed only because of the remnants of their lives that have been uncovered point to the existence of a God who can be known through the use of reason if one is willing to look at the “fossil record” of creation.”
So we’ve got lots of ideas, but in the end, the real reason for dinosaurs is just another one of those mysteries we probably won’t get the answer to while we’re in this world. And that’s fine. After all, the Catechism reminds us that there are “insurmountable limits that man, being a creature, must freely recognize and respect with trust.” And when those instances pop up, “Man is [to be] dependent on his Creator, and subject to the laws of creation and to the moral norms that govern the use of freedom.”
And as for my desire to see men (or pink panthers for that matter) square off against dinosaurs, well, we’ll always have Jurassic Park won’t we?