Earlier this month scientists announced the discovery of the “World’s largest dinosaur” from Argentina. The new dinosaur is estimated to have been 130 feet long, about 65 feet tall (equal to a seven-story building), and weigh as much as 77 tonnes (about as heavy as 14 African elephants!). Unfortunately, it doesn’t have a name yet.
A farm worker in Patagonia, a region near the southern end of Argentina, found the huge bones about a year ago in the desert, a region known for numerous dinosaur fossils. And although the dinosaur hasn’t been named yet, it is expected to be named for the region and farmers who discovered it.
The dinosaur is considered a new species of titanosaur, one of the many long-necked herbivores belonging to the sauropod group.
The main contention I have with this discovery is the claim that this dinosaur lived between 95 and 100 million years ago, based on the age of the rocks in which it was found. As a young earth creationist, however, I understand that no one really knows the age of this dinosaur, its bones, or the surrounding rocks. The age is derived from various dating methods, but none of them can be confirmed by the scientific method; they’re simply believed by faith. Dates are thrown around and can be modified based on other factors, yet each date is met with confidence by those who proclaim them. And I find it interesting that few wonder why they confidently accepted the incorrect dates in the first place, or if the new dates are just as suspect as the previous.
Another difficulty with this discovery highlights the shortcomings of historical or forensic science- namely that there’s so much uncertainty. In this case, even though the dinosaur has been proclaimed the world’s largest dinosaur, other scientists say it’s difficult to determine which is really the biggest. Dr. Paul Barrett from London’s Natural History Museum says that further research is needed before the winner can be declared. Dr. Barrett explains that the dinosaurs in contention are “based on very fragmentary specimens – no complete skeleton is known, which means the animal’s proportions and overall shape are conjectural.”
Since there are different methods for determining the weight and size of incomplete fossil specimens, it’s impossible to know for sure the actual measurements. Argentinosaurus, for example, has ranged from 72 feet in length up to 130 feet long and a weight of 60- 110 tonnes, depending on who has calculated the estimates. Another contender for the world’s largest dinosaur is Puertasaurus, estimated at 115 to 131 feet long and 88 to 110 tonnes.
Still another surprise that came at the time of this discovery was the discovery of another dinosaur announced by Argentine palaeontologists in Patagonia that was much smaller. This other dinosaur was a diplodocid, a sauropod dinosaur with a long, whip-like tail, and it has been named Leinkupal laticauda (valishing family and wide tail). Diplodocids were thought to have gone extinct during the Jurassic, but this one lived well beyond that. Dr. Apesteguia highlights the surprise by stating that “Finding Leinkupal was incredibly exciting since we never though it possible. A diplodocid in South America is as strange as finding a T. rex in Patagonia,”
Some people like to misrepresent science by claiming that we can’t question the reigning paradigms and to do so is anti-science, but these surprise discoveries demonstrate the uncertainty of science, especially when dealing with the unobservable past. The conclusions must be believed by faith- but only until another discovery comes along that can’t be questioned.
I think one of the important lessons that we can learn from these discoveries is that we don’t have to blindly accept whatever we’re told in the name of “science,” as if it can’t be questioned. On the contrary, I think it’s in the best interest of science to question what we think we know. What is considered true today often changes tomorrow.