“Oh?” said my spouse, not really seeming fascinated.
“And I've been reading all these books about religion, and so the idea naturally occurs to me that if the dinosaurs were the only group wiped out, it must be because God punished them. I wonder if anyone has advanced that idea.”
“Uh huh,” my spouse said.
“The dinosaurs must have really sinned to be singled out that way,” I said.
“The dinosaurs were sluts!” my spouse shouted as he rifled through his sock drawer. “Sluts and gonifs!"
I don't know where that came from. I had no idea that he harbored resentment about the moral character of dinosaurs.
I don't want anyone to think I take Miller's graph too seriously. He calls it “elementary.” But I've been thinking off and on, when I have something else to do, about the sins of the dinosaurs. Some Biblical literalists say the dinosaurs drowned because they weren't taken onto Noah's ark. Well, why weren't they? Not because they were too big, for there were many small dinosaurs – they weren't saved.
It can't be that they were unclean, because Genesis has Noah loading both clean and unclean animals.
So some dinosaur did something awful? For a second, I thought maybe it was a dinosaur who suggested frugivory to Eve, but then I remembered that Genesis not only fingers the snake, but says the snake is punished by having to crawl on its belly thereafter. All the dinosaurs I know about had legs.
A dinosaur did something even worse than abetting the Fall? Not necessarily. Peoples in holy writ are often obliterated for things that I, personally, might pass over with a glare and a sniff. Maybe something trivial got the dinosaurs killed, whether you believe it was done by barring them from the Ark, or by something mechanistic like having an asteroid flung at them.
Maybe a pteranodon laughed at a prophet's bald head, or a stegosaurus danced naked on an altar, or a velociraptor worshipped a golden calf. Could have been anything, really. Being a slut or gonif might be enough.
But let's think about the biology. What sins are dinosaurs likely to have committed? Let's look at birds, their closest living relatives. What really annoying things do birds do? Often they make a lot of noise. I've heard many complaints about trees full of grackles or starlings shrieking their heads off. A lot of self-proclaimed tree-huggers become enraged when describing a mockingbird singing at night when said nature lovers are trying to sleep, damn it. One dark secret about penguins is how incredibly noisy their colonies are. (The other is how badly those colonies stink.)
Maybe dinosaurs were noisy. There were a lot of them, and some were huge. Imagine a bunch of forty-ton tubas having an argument with a colony of ten thousand furious piccolos. (Maybe a few swooping pterosaurs – imagine angry fiddles with 11-meter wingspans.)
Fans of the Gilgamesh epic will know that the Babylonians also wrote of a Great Flood. It happened because humans, who had become numerous, were noisy and made so much racket that Enlil, greatest of the gods, couldn't sleep. Plagues didn't shut them up. Droughts didn't shut them up. So, flood.
Thus the possibility that the dinosaurs roared and chirped and screamed so incessantly that they were destroyed by divine wrath has theological precedent as well as biological plausibility.
Sluts, gonifs, loudmouths, who knows what got the dinosaurs in trouble? Whatever it was, they clearly threw amazing parties.
You wouldn't find them sitting around reading about reconciling evolution and religion.
Sometimes I really miss the dinosaurs.