A public school teacher recounted an answer to the question of why people in so many cultures had depicted images of dinosaurs. The obvious answer, of course, is that they actually saw them. However, she showed a video produced by a major museum that actually had a segment where it was trying to explain this from an evolutionary perspective. The gentleman on the video suggested that the dinosaurs were so fierce that the tiny little mammals that were evolving way back “millions of years ago” were living in such dread of getting eaten by them that they had nightmares. These nightmares may have permanently etched their brains and imprinted their DNA. Of course, the mammals evolved later into humans but this imprint did not go away. Instead, it was passed down over all those millions of years through the DNA so that the modern people could draw pictures of those fierce dinosaurs. When this teacher asked her students if this was a reasonable explanation, the students said, “No way.”
Can a parent’s nightmares be transferred as the same nightmare in their children? If so, it’s purely coincidental. I’m sure my grandson has no concept of what a tomahawk is even though my distant ancestors lived in fear of those.
If someone really has to deny the obvious, let me at least propose the following, more plausible scenario: Perhaps the people saw the bones of these creatures and came up with pictures of what they thought they looked like. Those precipitated all the dragon legends. We can give this potential answer a “maybe,” “might have,” “could have” rating. However there are some problems. The most obvious being that many of the pictures are from medieval cultures in Europe and China. Yet, the only place some of those bones are found that would be anywhere close to a match, is on the other side of the world.
Another issue is that many of the depictions are highly detailed and closely match the most current museum reconstructions. Early man would not likely have arrived at some of the precise conclusions after merely viewing an array of bones. It would take a lot of modern analytical methods to do so, which we have no record of ancient people using.
It is amazing what kind of contortions some individuals are willing to go through to deny the obvious. Of course, the big assumption that is being made here is that dinosaurs were extinct millions of years before people came on the scene. Perhaps this assumption needs to be reevaluated. It would be much easier and straightforward to believe that ancient people saw dinosaurs, called them dragons, and crafted artwork that depicted what they actually witnessed.
Originally published in the September/October 2013 Think & Believe newsletter.