It turns out that the wrinkled faces on the two African dinosaurs introduced this month by University of Chicago paleontologist Paul Sereno may help explain the mystery of how the continents of the southern hemisphere were formed more than 100 million years ago.
Called “wrinkle faces” because of the grooved surfaces in their facial bones, they are the earliest member found yet of the Abelisaurid family. Chicago school children seem pretty enthused over it all, setting attendance records at the Garfield Park Conservatory.
Now personally, I like dinosaurs. But there are some people who just can’t reconcile how flesh-eating dinosaurs were able to share stalls in Noah’s ark. For these folks, a huge faith crisis can develop.
I saw such a crisis in a man I met several years ago in the psychological ICU in our hospital. Raised in a fundamentalist Christian home, he began his search for answers late in life, and now at thirty-eight his search brought him into every library he could find. The subjects he studied were wide and far-reaching — philosophy, genetics, Eastern religions, and of course science.
But one day, these studies brought him into a conflict between what Mrs. Whipple had taught him in his seventh grade Sunday School and what Jacques Cousteau was finding seven miles beneath the sea.
“What should I believe?” he asked. “My mother can’t believe I’m suddenly questioning every idea I was raised with.”
The world of science didn’t measure up to his faith. Caught up in that ever-widening debate on who created the universe – Big Boom or God – the man couldn’t account for the missing answers. He quite literally couldn’t decide who would be his god – science or the non-scientific God of his upbringing.
He was in a real dilemma. On the one hand, he knew that placing his faith in science would leave him with more questions – because the gap between what we don’t know and what we discover grows at an exponential rate. In other words, the more we find out, the more we find out we don’t know.
On the other hand, he felt like choosing faith was to abandon all he knew for certain.
So, with seemingly nothing else to believe in and feeling his faith had lied to him; he sought to end it all with a hose on the end of his car. If his daughter had not found him, we’d have never had the discussion that followed.
“It seems to me,” I told him, “that science has to be that thing that answers my ‘how’ questions. Questions like ‘How do land masses form?’ And ‘How big is the universe?’
“Faith is that thing which answers my ‘who’ and ‘why’ questions. Questions like ‘Why is man here?’ And ‘Who put us here?’
“Faith explains my purpose in life and science is one of the aids I have to carry out that purpose. A scientist trying to prove or disprove God is out of his expertise – as is a theologian trying to explain the dinosaur.
“Maybe,” I ventured, “that the two things that have caused such a civil war in you are really meant to live fairly peacefully. For if you try to build a faith based on the science you know today, your god will be a different kind of god tomorrow. And that kind God quickly becomes irrelevant and extinct.
Maybe that’s why the scriptures suggest, “God is the same yesterday, today and forever.”