Different Types Of Dinosaurs
There are two main "branches" of dinosaurs...Saurischia and Ornithischia.
Saurischia contains all carnivorous (theropod) dinosaurs, like T-Rex and raptors, as well as the Sauropods (large, long-necked herbivores), a few other miscellaneous herbivores (there are actually a few herbivorous theropods), and birds. Yes, you heard it, birds are now officially classified as Saurischian dinosaurs.
Ornithischia contains all dinosaurs who have bird-like hip structures and yet are not birds. Yeah, that definition is a little silly, I know. But this group contains Stegosaurus (quadrupedal dinosaurs with plates running down their back), Ankylosaurus (dinosaurs with turtle-shell-like backs), Hadrosaurs (large duck-billed dinosaurs), and Triceratops (giant three-horned quadrupedal dinosaur).
Reptile Or Bird?
Originally, dinosaurs were thought of as reptiles. This is where the name came from...dinosaur means "terrible lizard" as I am sure some of you know. However, since the initial discovery of dinosaurs the thinking has been changing rapidly. We are discovering they were, in fact, very bird-like. They were actually even more bird-like than reptile-like.
When dinosaur eggs were first found, they were not attributed to dinosaurs, they were thought to be from some unknown prehistoric giant bird. This is because unlike the round soft-shelled eggs of reptiles, they were hard-shelled oblong eggs like modern birds.
In fact, if you study dinosaurs, you will find that the only features they have that specifically resembles reptiles is their snouts and the hip-structure of some dinosaurs. Most dinosaurs possessed reptile-like snouts rather than bird-like beaks. Similarly, Saurischian dinosaurs have lizard-like hip structures, except for birds, who have bird-like hip structures.
Now, I'm sure you've heard that some dinosaurs had feathers. Well, they did. Despite some of my creationist contemporaries using an outdated argument about them just being frayed skin (both young and old earth creationists), these feathered fossils are now undisputed within the scientific community as the clear impressions of feathers have been found on many fossils.
Here are some pictures:
However, there is some debate about which dinosaurs had feathers, as some dinosaurs have left fossils containing clear impressions of scales without feathers.
It was once believed by scientists that only the theropod dinosaurs had feathers, but this has changed of late. With feathered fossils of creatures like Kulindadromeus, a dinosaur in the Ornithischian clade, completely "unrelated" to theropods.
This lead scientists inclined towards evolution to believe that the common ancestor of all dinosaurs was feathered. Otherwise, they would have to explain feathers emerging independently in multiple dinosaur groups. Though, as I said before, many dinosaur species have been found clearly lacking feathers, such as Hadrosaurs, Sauropods, and Stegosaurus.
Yet, according to the evolutionary paradigm, these dinosaurs are relatively unrelated, so they must have each lost their feathers independently. Though not as ridiculous as claiming feathers emerged multiple times independently, it does create some concern and the picture is far less pretty than theropods evolving feathers and gradually evolving into birds.
The bigger problem here is with the two primary groups of dinosaurs. Saurischia dinosaurs have lizard hips, and Ornithischia dinosaurs have bird hips. At first glance, you would think birds must be descended from the Ornithischia dinosaurs right? Right...?
Nope. Although Ornithischia dinosaurs have bird-like hip structures, they lack many other bird features found in Saurischia dinosaurs, specifically theropods. For example, theropods tend to have more complex feathers (the feathers on Ornithischia dinosaurs are relatively simple, akin to the downs of baby birds). Theropods also possess hollow bones, and have a more bird-like foot-structure.
So, it has been concluded by evolutionary biologists that the bird-like hip structure emerged independently in Ornithischia dinosaurs and then birds. They call this "convergent evolution".
I argue that convergent evolution creates a problem for the evolutionary paradigm. We are talking about random, natural processes acting on extremely complex systems can cause the same changes multiple times. I might be able to buy this happening a few times, especially if the structures are only superficially similar, like bird wings and bat wings, but we observe this occurring far too many times in species to be best explained by evolution.
Whereas, design has no problems here, you would expect God to mix and match different designs when creating new species. God is not limited by strict evolutionary trees, he can diverge from them and create something entirely different, mixing features from different species together.
Do Dinosaurs Cause A Problem For Creationism?
Some argue that the bird-like nature of dinosaurs shows them to be transitional between reptiles and birds, and that this is an argument against creationism.
I would strongly disagree with this notion as you would expect some of God's creations to cluster into groups. Just like our designs, we have forks and spoons, part of a group of designs..."silverware". We have houses and skyscrapers, both buildings, more similar to one another than either are to spoons or forks. The fact that we can build trees with different organisms does not give evidence for evolution any more than creationism.
Similarly we have designs that resemble a combination of different designs, like the spork, which contains aspects of both the spoon and the fork. Does this mean the spork is a transitional intermediate?
Similarly, God created these ancient beasts with traits of both reptiles and birds (though mostly birds), as well as many uniquely created features. I have no problem with the concept of millions of years of prehistory prior to the first humans. God is an artist, and created over a long period of time. We see creatures appear in the fossil record at a certain time and then go extinct.
For instance, the famous Tyrannosaurus Rex appears in the fossil record first 68 million years ago, and goes extinct 66 million years ago during the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event (the big asteroid).
What I have a problem with is when scientists draw imaginary connections between these species and view some as transitional intermediates to others and side branches and so on. I think evolutionary trees are like the constellations, imaginary connections between species or stars.
Behemoth And Leviathan
The bible does not mention dinosaurs, period. Despite the claims of certain young-earth creationists like Ken Ham. Some claim that Behemoth and Leviathan in the book of Job (Job: 40-41 Seriously, just go read them) are dinosaurs. But these claims are actually quite deceptive. I hate to accuse fellow christians of deception, but at this point i'm not so sure Ken Ham is a christian after seeing some of the practices he has engaged in (if I am wrong, I recant).
It is commonly argued by scholars that these creatures described in Job are either poetic descriptions of real animals (the hippo and the crocodile), or mythical creatures. In context, the poetic descriptions of real animals theory makes a lot of sense, more so than the mythical creature theory I feel.
Many claim that descriptions of behemoth and leviathan, such as fire-breathing, metal bones, back made of rows of shields, etc. mean these creatures must be mythical. However, in context, it makes sense that this is describing how men feel in the presence of creatures like the hippopotamus or the crocodile.
However, young-earth creationists argue that behemoth must be a sauropod dinosaur based on the description of its tail being like a cedar tree. They don't tell you the fact that the bible does not actually reference the size and shape of the tail, just how it moves.
But seriously, whatever you wanna believe about Behemoth and Leviathan, I defy you to read those passages and come up with a dinosaur. It just isn't the picture painted in Job 40-41.
Why Doesn't The Bible Mention Dinosaurs?
This is a commonly asked question among christians and atheists alike, so lets see if we can understand why this is.
Although the dinosaurs were fascinating creatures and amazing to explore and discover, they really don't have much of a significance to humanity, having gone completely extinct long before the first humans (unless you count birds). And really, God only spends a single page in Genesis talking about pre-human history. And it seems the only reason he does that is for theological purposes, not scientific ones.
He structures his long process of creation into seven "days" or "yom" to reflect our human work-week. And gave a brief overview of what he did at the beginning.
He made all the animals, birds, reptiles, fish, rodents, etc.
He made the sun, moon, and stars, and cleared an early cloud layer so the animals and humans that would come later could see them.
He made the earth, the oceans, and the sky.
He made every plant we eat.
He made the first two humans, Adam and Eve, which is later telescoped on in Genesis 2.
This creation account would have been significantly longer if he went into extinction events, extinct species, plate tectonics, planet formation, methane gas, the ozone layer, volcanoes, the water cycle, the series of ice ages and greenhouse periods, the list goes on and on.
These things would be completely confusing and bizarre to the ancient Israelites, and could have driven them away from accepting the scripture. There really is no need to go into all these details. Best to just leave them open for future generations to explore. The bible is meant to speak to all generations, not just ours.
So really, there is no reason for God to include such things in the bible, and a lot of reason not to.
In conclusion, dinosaurs are amazing creatures that closely resemble modern birds but pose no problems to creationism or the christian faith. Dinosaurs are not mentioned in the bible, but that should not be surprising as they went extinct long before the first humans. Thanks for your time!