Fire-Breathing Dinosaurs?

By Philip J. Senter

Mainstream geologists and biologists accept the abundant physical evidence that the Earth is billions of years old; that all organisms are evolutionary descendants of a common ancestor; and that non-avian dinosaurs became extinct sixty-five million years ago (e.g., Gradstein et al. 2004; Prothero 2007). In contrast, young-Earth creationist (YEC) authors have long maintained that the Genesis account of creation and the biblical timeline are literally correct, placing the creation of the Earth and all types of organisms at approximately 6,000 years ago. A corollary of this position is that dinosaurs and humans were created on the same day and must therefore have encountered each other. The claim that dragon legends are based on such encounters has long been a 
mainstay of YEC literature, and in 1977, biochemist and YEC author Duane Gish took this concept up a notch in his children’s book Dinosaurs, Those Terrible Lizards, by positing that dinosaurs breathed fire. Other YEC authors followed suit (see references below), and dinosaurs now breathe fire in seventh-grade biology textbooks from BJU Press (Batdorf and Porch 2013; Lacy 2013).

In support of the idea that a real animal can produce fire, Gish (1977) cited the defense mechanism of bombardier beetles (Brachinus spp.), which spray a mixture of hydrogen peroxide and hydroquinone into the faces of would-be predators. Chemical catalysts cause the mixture to reach a scalding 100º C (Aneshansley et al. 1969). Subsequent YEC authors followed Gish’s lead and added imaginary details such as sparks or explosions or flame (Phillips 1994; Hamp 2000; Isaacs 2010; Paul 2010). In reality, the beetles merely spray hot liquid—which scalds but does not produce flame—and therefore provide no biological precedent for organic fire production.

Some YEC authors have cited bioluminescent animals and electric eels as biological precedent for fire production (Morris 1984; Petersen 1986; Morris 1988; Niermann 1994; Morris 1999; DeYoung 2000; Petersen 2002). However, the processes that produce bioluminescence (Haddock et al. 2010) and bioelectrogenesis (Pough et al. 2013) are chemically unrelated to combustion and generate little or no thermal energy. These processes are therefore irrelevant to fire production and provide no biological precedent for it.

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5 COMMENTS

  1. @OP – In reality, the beetles merely spray hot liquid—
    which scalds but does not produce flame—
    and therefore provide no biological precedent for organic fire production.

    However, the processes that produce bioluminescence (Haddock et al. 2010) and bioelectrogenesis (Pough et al. 2013) are chemically unrelated to combustion and generate little or no thermal energy.

    We know that, but ignorance of biology, astronomy, and geology, along with scientific illiteracy, is a qualification for YEC authorship and running “Bible-Biology” courses!!

  2. Anyway a humorous anecdote!

    A poacher was trespassing in search of snared rabbits, when he encountered a really high fence.
    Undeterred he climbed it, and was taking a rabbit out of one of his snares, when he felt hot breath on his neck!
    The owners had extended the safari park, and that lion, might just as well have been a fire-breathing dragon for the reaction it created from him as he abandoned his bag of rabbits and made a rapid escape!

  3. Well, we have recently learned the goldfish, oxygen starved, is almost pure alcohol inside. I propose that another branch of fish made it onto dry as a tetrapod in competition to tiktaalik. Able to hold its breath to make the stuff at will and digitgrade, walking on insulating claws, via which it builds up a large static charge. It projects a column of alcohol and a little ionic water at its victim, the leading edge of which draws a spark igniting the lot.

    Well, of course they’re extinct. They were an accident waiting to happen….

  4. Anyway:- enough of the Creationist fire-breathing nonsense!

    I see that another common ancestor, “missing link”, has been discovered!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-40890714

    A new study suggests that it is in fact the missing link between plant-eating dinosaurs, such as Stegosaurus, and carnivorous dinosaurs, like T. rex.

    The finding provides fresh insight on the evolution of the group of dinos known as the ornithischians.

    The study is published in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters.

    Now that we think ornithischians and meat-eating dinosaurs such as Tyrannosaurus are related, Chilesaurus slots exactly in between the two groups. It is a perfect half-and-half mix. So, suddenly in the new tree it makes a whole lot of sense.”

    The alternative version of the dinosaur family tree, now called the “Baron tree”, is more than just a rearrangement, however.

    It sheds new light on how different groups of dinosaurs split from one another and evolved along different paths, adds co-author Prof Paul Barrett from London’s Natural History Museum.

    “Chilesaurus is there at the beginning of one of these big splits and hopefully by understanding more about its biology it will tell us what the driving factors might have been.”

    Prof Sarah Gabbott, from Leicester University, was not involved in the study. She described the new analysis as “incredibly important”

    “This is one of those rare fossil discoveries that provides much more evidence to unravel dinosaur relationships than your average skeleton,” she said.

    “This is because Chilesaurus preserves an unusual suite of characteristics that are a mix between between the ornithischians and theropods. In particular, its melange of features helps to reveal the sequence of events during the critical early stages of ornithischian evolution.”

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