From the ICR’s URCall series of videos, hosted by Markus Lloyd. “Are dragons really dinosaurs?” (link)
Have you ever heard of the tale of St. George and the dragon? Many cultures around the world have legends of dragons and winged serpents. The bible mentions them, and even historical figures like Marco Polo, Herodotus, and Alexander the Great wrote eyewitness accounts of them. Even today tales persist about the Loch Ness monster and the monster at Lake Champlain. Can these stories of dragons and sea monsters possibly tell of real accounts of human interactions with dinosaurs?
Are dragons dinosaurs? You’ll notice that the ICR doesn’t actually back this point up, they just point to accounts of dragons and make the leap to dinosaur. But the stories they allude to aren’t all that solid, especially when they have to now be of real dinosaurs.
For example in the last time Herodotus came up in this series I warned that he was not overly reliable, blending fact with fiction, but ended up talking about a description that was probably fundamentally real. This time that doesn’t seem to be the case. CreationWiki provides the quote from Book 2, but only part of it – in more context it becomes a lot more clear that this isn’t a true description, and certainly not of dinosaurs. Here’s the full paragraph:
I went once to a certain place in Arabia, almost exactly opposite the city of Buto, to make inquiries concerning the winged serpents. On my arrival I saw the back-bones and ribs of serpents in such numbers as it is impossible to describe: of the ribs there were a multitude of heaps, some great, some small, some middle-sized. The place where the bones lie is at the entrance of a narrow gorge between steep mountains, which there open upon a spacious plain communicating with the great plain of Egypt. The story goes that with the spring the winged snakes come flying from Arabia towards Egypt, but are met in this gorge by the birds called ibises, who forbid their entrance and destroy them all. The Arabians assert, and the Egyptians also admit, that it is on account of the service thus rendered that the Egyptians hold the ibis in so much reverence.
So we have a location where there are a lot of bones of what are claimed to be “winged serpents.” Already we have two problems: first, although dragons are often said to have wings, dinosaurs didn’t (except birds and some other bird-like dinosaurs, but creationists deny this connection); and second, all Herodotus saw in what the ICR calls an “eyewitness account” were piles of bones, but what the ICR is trying to prove is that people saw more than just bones. The CreationWiki quote includes something about bat-like wings that doesn’t seem to be in the above, but this doesn’t really help.
But the story goes on: apparently the serpents – which, again, are supposed to be dinosaurs – fly (again, an important part of the description) towards Egypt, but are stopped – massacred – by ibises. Now, I doubt being mauled by the bird would be very pleasant, but I also don’t think it could stop the dragons/dinosaurs that the creationists are talking about, flying or not.
There is, however, more context. For example a short paragraph immediately above the one I just quoted says:
In the neighbourhood of Thebes there are some sacred serpents which are perfectly harmless. They are of small size, and have two horns growing out of the top of the head. These snakes, when they die, are buried in the temple of Jupiter, the god to whom they are sacred.
Again we’re talking about “serpents,” but these ones have horns instead of wings and are explicitly referred to as snakes (although that could derive from the translation). Why then should serpent + wings = dinosaur? Again, dinosaurs are not known for their wings, or their snake-like nature.
And there’s more where that came from: while some real Egyptian animals are described around this part of the book, so to is there a mention of the phoenix, which begins:
They have also another sacred bird called the phoenix which I myself have never seen, except in pictures. Indeed it is a great rarity, even in Egypt, only coming there (according to the accounts of the people of Heliopolis) once in five hundred years, when the old phoenix dies. Its size and appearance, if it is like the pictures, are as follow:- The plumage is partly red, partly golden, while the general make and size are almost exactly that of the eagle.
This he seems fine with. It’s the story he recounts of how the phoenix places the body of its deceased parent in the temple of the Sun having first plastered it in myrrh for transport from Arabia, that he says “does not seem to me to be credible.” In other words, don’t rely on Herodotus for evidence that your mythical animal of choice was real.
There are other sources that the ICR relies upon, as Lloyd says. So far as I can tell Marco Polo didn’t claim to have actually seen a dragon, he merely reported what he was told about them – although Kublai Khan himself claimed in poetry to have ridden “a Blue Dragon in the royal carriage,” if that helps at all. Meanwhile in their That’s a Fact video on the subject the ICR went so far as to claim that Alexander the Great’s army fought a dragon, while here they merely say that he personally wrote an eyewitness account. In truth, not even the writings of his contemporaries survive.
As for the other things, the legend of St. George is exactly that – a legend. There’s not a lot we can do with that. And let’s not get started with Nesse et al, except to note that they make a great example of how not every tale has to be true, and that this shows how the ICR is being excessively credulous.
To make the argument that dragons were real and that they were really dinosaurs you need to provide some solid accounts of actual dragons – which the ICR does a terrible job of – and make a leap of logic – that they aren’t even prepared to provide any backing for in this case. Very convincing.
Post Script: While I was researching around this topic I found some resources which might be useful for a more thorough investigation of this claim. First, an interesting website, and second this short but potentially terrifying video:
It depends how far your imagination ran while reading this post.