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What is the Jewish view on dinosaurs?

by Rabbi Tzvi Shapiro

  

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The Short Answer:

Judaism has nothing to say about dinosaurs. The concept is completely irrelevant to Judaism.

The Askmoses Answer:

Judaism never had a view of dinosaurs. For that matter, neither did science. The closest anyone got to seeing a dinosaur was seeing (Jurassic Park, or) fossils that when reconstructed a specific way can reflect what we call today a dinosaur.

The dinosaur phenomenon has become so part of common culture (more in part to movies and books than actual science) that we often neglect to differentiate between dinosaur facts, and dinosaur theories.

Let’s take an extreme example: what color is a dinosaur?

If you answered green/brown/gray, you are correct. Aside for Barney, every scientific reconstruction and representation of a dinosaur fits those colors. And so it is (from common culture to classroom textbooks) that a green dinosaur represents a real dinosaur, and a purple dinosaur represents a fictitious spinoff.

Is it not entirely possible that real dinosaurs were actually as purple as Barney, striped like a zebra, or polka dotted like a leopard?
But why? What type of evidence do we have regarding the color of a dinosaur? Do fossils have a skin color? Is it not entirely possible that real dinosaurs were actually as purple as Barney, striped like a zebra, or polka dotted like a leopard?

This is something we will never know. So why do we act as if we already do!

A less extreme example of what we don’t know is in what era dinosaurs actually inhabited the earth. As a matter of fact, we really don’t know if dinosaurs inhabited the earth at all. Yes, we have fossils, but is it not entirely possible that these fossils were always fossils? Do we have proof they were once living creatures?

Thus all this speculation is completely irrelevant to Judaism.

Some wish to create a contradiction between the scientific opinion stating that these fossils are millions of years old, and Judaism's claim that the world is less than 6000 years old.

But there is no contradiction. Science is saying that (based on current – precluding past or future - observable phenomena) the fossils appear to be millions of years old. Judaism has no problem with things appearing to be that old.1 Judaism merely says that in reality they can't actually be that old. And science has no way of proving that they are. 

See also What is the Jewish view on the age of the universe?

Footnotes

  • 1. Judaism actually always maintained that the world looks older than it really is. For example, see Talmud tractate Rosh Hashanah 11a - Trees were created already bearing fruit, and the world was created in complete form. See Midrash Rabba Breishis 14:7 - the moment Adam was born he appeared to be 20 years old.

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Philosophy » Creation
Philosophy » Torah vs. Science