About ten days ago I read an article on my friend Elles's blog. It was titled, "A preschoolers road to unbelief." She basically told about how her preschool belief in God was shattered when she could not find out why God if he were protecting the dinosaurs why he would let them go extinct (she has more complex reasons for being an atheist now of course). Well I gave what my response would have been had she asked me at that time. She replied, and soon a conversation on dinosaurs had started. Although it shifted to why did God take a 160 million year detour in evolving mammals who would become our ancestors to make giant lizards which would die off anyway. The so called "Dinosaur Dilemma" although it borders on facetious when I think about writing an article addressing it I feel it must be addressed. She has used the dino dilemma at least two times on her blog when addressing a theistic evolutionist.
Now first of all being that I don't intend to write an essay on this topic I'll try to keep this post a s short as possible.
Now to begin, lets start with a short introduction. The proto-mammals that existed for most or all of the mesozoic era (which lasted 186 million years between 251 Mya and 65 Mya) evolved from nifty creatures known as therapsids. Therapsids were mammal -like reptiles (the earliest could have been thought of as naked lizards with no hair or scales). They were mammal-like in the sense that they show signs of lactation (feeding their children mother's milk, also paleontologists have suggested it was orignally used for keeping eggs moist). The late therapsids (such as cynodonts and theriodonts) could have been easily mistaken for mammals they had hair, lactation, as well as a near-mammalian jaw and middle ear. Also some therapsids had erect limbs. Today and back then lizards have sprawling limbs (meaning their legs are spread out from their body). Today most mammals have erect limbs (meaning their limbs are direclty below their bodies supporting them like pillars on a building).
The evolution of erect limb structure was every erratic and slow, in fact mammalian evolution was quite slow. Therapsids were the dominant terrestrial lifeform in the permian period (between about 299 Mya and 251 Mya). Then about 251 million years ago, something terrible happened.
The Permian-cretaceous mass extinction, it is not agreed on what caused the mass extinction but what did happen is that 96% of sea dwelling species and 70% of land dwelling vertebrates went extinct. It was by far the worst mass extinction earth has gone through yet. This devastated the therapsids, only theriodonts, theracophalians, and cynodonts survived. All other therapsids died out. This also led to the saurapsids gaining dominance and taking over the planet, the archosaurs who include dinosaurs, pterosaurs, and plesiosaurs filled all the niches which the therapsids had previously filled reducing the therapsids to nocturnal insectivores who were often no larger then rats. Now interestingly enough the mass extinction and reptilian takeover aided mammalian evolution;
--since they were small they became warm-blooded so they could sustain their body heat in the cool of the night
--the development towards differentiated teeth with precise occlusion (the arches of the teeth coming together in symmetry) was given a boost because they needed to be able to catch arthropods and crush their exoskeletons.
--an acute sense of hearing and smell became more necessary so as a result the mammalian ear evolved faster then it otherwise would have.
--and the evolution of the mammalian skull was accelerated as a whole.
--Because the jawbones came together further forward on the skull this allowed for less restriction on brain siz allowing the brain to become larger.
After this one of the survivors, the cynodonts, ended up being the ancestors of all mammals today. Cynodonts survived into the mid-cretaceaous period, by the end it had all the characteristics of a mammal. The small bones which are in located in the jaw in reptiles were in its ear (as expected in mammals), it had fur, and it had more mammalian dentistry. It still layed eggs however (which monotremes, or egg-laying mammals still do). Of course this isn't the end of it. The first true mammals did not appear until 125 Mya, and when they did they were marsupials (meaning their offspring were born in pouches). now this was a step but they were not the mammals that would lead to us. The next mammals to evolve were none other then placental mammals (I'll let you guess what those are). And guess what species relevant to humans is a placental mammal; humans themselves. Placental mammals began to diversify 110 Mya splitting off into different groups, then 65 Mya something strangely wonderful happened. It is bad because it was another mass extinction; but this time dinosaurs, plesiosaurs, and pterosaurs (and pretty much anything larger then a house-cat) went extinct. This was was sadly fantastic because now the newly evolved mammals took over and ten million years later they dominated the earth. One group of these mammals inhabited the trees and developed intelligence, then 5 Mya one group broke of and became hominids which led to us (according to the evolutionary theory).
Do you see it? Do you see the hand of God? If the permian extinction had not occurred mammal evolution would have taken much longer, or mammals may have never evolved, then humans would have never arrived. God sent the permian-cretaceous extinction event to speed up mammal evolution and then the cretaceous-tertiary extinction event to allow mammals to populate the earth and lead the way to us, then he revealed himself to us making us in his own image.
Thank God for evolution.