The dinosaur dilemma: "If God exists and is good, why did he let the dinosaurs go extinct?"

Greetings fellow humans,

This is my first time starting a topic on this forum, though I have posted a few times. I was originally going to bring this up in response to a comment, but I decided it was off-topic enough to deserve its own thread. A friend of mine once told me that she lost her faith in God when, as a kid, she couldn’t figure out why God would let the dinosaurs go extinct. Why would he let them go extinct if he created them and loved them? I thought the question was a little silly at the time, but it was still something that was a problem for her as far as belief in God was concerned. My response at the time was that the evolution and demise of the dinosaurs may have somehow prepared the way for the emergence of humans (acceleration of mammal evolution, etc.). Today, I would probably take a less anthropocentric approach. I would say that God is more like a cosmic lion tamer, with the universe as the lion, than a cosmic engineer. He is allowing the universe to evolve in its own way (while gently nudging it in the right direction) because he is inherently non-coercive as a God of love, even when this leads a mass-extinction. Since this topic is probably of interest to the folks on this forum, I thought I would bring it up to see your responses. How would you answer the dinosaur dilemma?

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Extinction has always been a part of life on this planet. Over 99% of all animals who ever lived have gone extinct. The dinosaurs had a long, successful run. Nobody can call them failures.

The descendants of dinosaurs live on today–we call them birds. A very successful group!

Nobody fully understands the mind of God.

In my opinion, we should be more worried about the accelerated extinctions that we humans are causing.

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An interesting question, and sort of related to the question some pose of how a good God could allow death before the fall.

My thoughts on the dinosaur question are pretty much in line with yours. The universe is a rough place, with lots of catastrophic events over the past 14 billion years or so. Out of that chaos, God brought forth order, but chaos remains a potent influence. There have been multiple extinction events in the history of the earth, and each one seems to also be a time to open new niches for life to develop and grow. The extinction of some species is also an opportunity for the birth of others.

Rather than a lion tamer, I see God as more a gardener, planting and pruning, nurturing and caring. And, sometimes perhaps earth needs a Sabboth to allow for regeneration and growth.

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I think it’s interesting that we tend to think: eternity or bust. How many untold trillions of lifeforms have graced this planet (not just with suffering and death - red in tooth and claw - but–and nobody ever mentions this–with familial love and life too.) It’s sorta like thinking that a vacation on a particular cruize boat was enjoyable. So why should anybody ever get off the boat? It could haul the same few hundred passengers around forever so long as money never ran out. But (even if the unrealistic source of wealth were granted to fund that), still - as with any attraction, one would hope that people move on to other venues with the same regular basis that they come so that everybody gets a chance to enjoy it. It can’t hold all of them all at once.

Why is planet earth different?

I think this is a helpful metaphor. It reminds me of kingdoms rising and falling, or some of the words from Ecclesiastes, about “a time to tear down and a time to build,” and that “He has made everything beautiful in its time.”

How fortunate we are to be in a time when we have been able to gain such a breathtaking knowledge of the species that came before us, limited as that knowledge is.

I’m curious, since death is a natural process that happens to every living thing, why extinction—the natural deaths of the individual members of a species whose genes were not passed on to successive generations—is worse than any individual’s death.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not looking toward the extinction of MY OWN species. But every currently living member of my species will eventually die. Would it affect any of us alive today, if none of our genes were passed on?

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True that death is an individual event, and extinction is a population event, spread at times over thousands of years. Any individual would live its life out with no real regard for its species eventual extinction. My paternal line will end with me, as my brother and I have no male offspring, but my life is blessed by my daughters.

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That is how you create living things. Farmers pull weeds and teachers give failing grades. God is a healing surgeon not a ghoulish reporter.

Living things are not a product of design. Design is how you make machines not things which are alive.

This is why evolution fits so perfectly with the God of the Bible who sends a flood to wipe out the first human civilization when it goes wrong.

I could never have believed in Christianity without evolution. If I had to believe God designed children with painful diseases to torture them and their parents, the poor excuses of clergy that God’s sadistic ways were just a mystery we needed to accept on faith wouldn’t cut it in the slightest. But evolution answers this quite simply – it is not divine design at all. It’s how life works. Without death and suffering life simply would not exist.

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Why the focus on dinosaurs? What about the marine reptiles, pterodactyls, mastodons, giant ground sloths, cave bears, and all the other magnificent creatures that are also extinct?

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Obviously, if God’s goal was to keep tyrannosaurs alive to the present, then He wasn’t successful. But we have no reason to assume that was the goal. If one of God’s goal for creation is high diversity, then changing types of organisms over time gives room for a lot more diversity than fits on Earth just in a short period of time.

John Stott argues that human-caused extinctions are an example of blasphemy, dishonoring God through poor care of His creation. But wiping things out through carelessness and greed is different from a planned sequence.

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I don’t think it’s a matter of of God was actively preserving ( and failing ) or killing off ( as succeeding ) with dinosaurs. I think that’s making Yahweh’s role different from what it is.

I often think of it like with any parent. If a parent failing if they are not controlling every action of their kid? If I let my 13 year old son go swimming in regularly used safe pond by hundreds of people a year and he drowns did I fail him? Did I fail because I let him go? Or was it simply life? Would I have been a better parent if I never let him leave the house? Would I have been better if I paid a lifeguard to follow him around at the pond? A parents job is not to lock away their kids to keep them safe. I let my niece do her homework with a pencil even though she could pass out and face plant it driving it though her brain. Her dad lets ride with her 17 year old friend despite knowing they could wreck or get crashed into.

What we do is teach them how to be smart and good and aware of their environment and what type of people to look out for. Yahweh gave Adam a choice and told him what to do and what not to do and Adam made the wrong choice. It affected Abel down the road. That story holds principles true for reality. If I make a bad choice it affects me and others usually.

God is the Collective Consciousness of every particle which is free. Some parts like dinosaurs can’t keep up and become extinct. God evolves in the process.

It’s also worth mentioning that the dinosaurs didn’t go extinct. In fact, they even attack humans at times.

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Another thought: We should be more concerned with all the life forms going extinct in our own day from human action.

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Except he’s not.

What happens to this “Collective Consciousness” when the universe finally experiences heat death, if the God who is real doesn’t intervene first?

I presume you are speaking of the universe collapsing into the black hole. The CC continues to exist. The CC or God become independent of the underlying matter once it attains critical mass.

No, I am talking about the presumed heat death of the universe. Look it up.
 

That’s a fun(?) conjecture, but that is absolutely all that it is.

As a created being, why challenge the creator of you? Do you expect your finite mind to comprehend the whole of God’s plan? He reveals to us what He wishes. Dinosaurs don’t occupy my mind, and I will not join any save the dinosaurs group. My studies involve medical research, and eternal life with the Holy Trinity, important things for living people. Natural selection does not preserve all mutations, only those that fit and thrive in their environment. Even Darwin figured that out. I suggest studying the Bible.

Hi Caleb,

Categorizing God will always fall short, but I share some of your thoughts. Here is some food for thought you may appreciate. I came across this comment about a year ago supporting freedom of choice*. “God treats us ANONYMOUSLY so that we can live AUTONOMOUSLY before Him.”

The idea was to demonstrate God’s self-restraint, avoiding intimidation by his presence, maintaining his agape love for us, and allowing us to make choices as we wish. I picture Isaiah in the Throne Room as totally “undone” in the presence of God, and I appreciate God’s patient love restraining His judgment until His “fullness of time.”

The other application I sense is the low-profile presence of God as a realistic view of God managing his Creation through evolutionary processes and his continuing involvement with His Holy Spirit.

The dinosaur extinction is just a single example of a long list of extinctions in the life cycles of the Animal Kingdom. However, all extinctions point to how temporary things are, compared to God. They also emphasize our favored position as survivors pointing to His love and grace.

Blessings!

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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