There is much cause for WTF! moments when considering the views of young-earth-creationist-style fundamentalist Christians. But nothing quite rivals for sheer outrageousness their “thinking” on peaceful human-dinosaur cohabitation. Even paleontologists whose research they’ve hijacked in vain efforts to “prove” their outlandish ideas on the subject can’t convince them of the error of their ways. That’s why I’m writing now to suggest we take a different tack and attempt to enter and even take over the narrative space for human-dinosaur interaction and thereby drive the creationists out. And I propose to do this by making recourse to the series of books by James Gurney and the 2002 TV miniseries they inspired, all called by the name of the hidden, magical land of human-dinosaur cooperation and coexistence they depict named Dinotopia.
Dinotopia is a portmanteau word (or what professional linguists call by the oddly simple technical term of blend) comprised of the front half of the word dinosaur and the back half of the Greek term utopia, meaning a perfect place. And the land that bears this invented name truly is portrayed as a paradise of sorts, where humans and dinos live symbiotically, much in the same manner as young-earth creationists portray pre-Flood life. Despite the condescension toward dinosaurs on the part of the character of Karl Scott when he and his brother David first find themselves marooned in Dinotopia, the mythical civilization actually includes quite a number of dinosaurs who possess human intelligence and can speak, read, and write. Indeed, there are plenty of signs of the dinos possessing the higher culture in Dinotopia, with human children learning both “footprint language,” a form of written communication left by the earliest dinosaurs and consisting of three-toed footprints in various combinations, and actual spoken dinosaur languages.
Another key utopian element in the books and miniseries is the Code of Dinotopia, which all young human Dinotopians—as well as outer-earth newcomers Karl and David—must learn by heart. The Code comprises 12 moral propositions (though the twelfth statement is fragmentary), forming an acrostic that spells the injunction “Sow Good Seed” when written out in order:
“Survival of all or none
One raindrop raises the sea
Weapons are enemies even to their owners
Give more, take less
Others first, self last
Observe, listen, and learn
Do one thing at a time
Sing every day
Eat to live, don’t live to eat
As you can see in the above, many of the items in the Code detail a kind of collectivism, where individual interest and need take a back seat to the interests and needs of the group. Still, at least one principle in the Code, the second, also places emphasis on the importance of individual contributions to causes and seems to recall, in its precipitation metaphor, the modern right-wing slur “snowflake” deployed against what is perceived as a leftist idea of individual uniqueness and worth. There’s a nod to the scientific method in principle number six (“Observe, listen, and learn”), acknowledgment of the importance of creativity (“Exercise imagination”) and self-expression (“Sing every day”), and a statement of the ultimately pacifist nature of Dinotopian society that seems to directly contradict the collective “wisdom” of modern America’s Religious Right on the subject of gun ownership: “Weapons are enemies even to their owners.”
Taken together, these aspects of Dinotopia—the cultural superiority of Dinosaurs to humans, the emphasis on collectivism while playing up individual uniqueness, privileging imagination and creative self-expression, inculcating the scientific method, and the characterization of weapons as perilous even to their lawful owners—make of the fictitious land and society something that would surely prove positively anathema to the average, right-wing American creationist. After all, these are the very people who tend to presume human superiority in all things, to possess an almost libertarian regard for individual freedom within the confines of a Christian-conforming society that deemphasizes and even demonizes uniqueness, to denigrate the role played in civilization by the arts and self-expression, to look with utter suspicion on modern science and its results, and to place the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution on an almost equal footing with the Bible as a sacred and key cultural text. (Creationist Joshua Feuerstein has even argued that the Second Amendment not only has precedent, but is actually fully articulated, in the Bible!) And here, lady-devils and gentle-demons, lies the rub.
Every time we see or hear young-earth-creationist types propounding their narrative of human-dinosaur cohabitation, we should enthusiastically bring up Dinotopia, discussing it as though it were a real place and is, in fact, the very place and time creationists are describing when they talk humans and dinos living side-by-side. That is, when we find ourselves confronted with this obviously false narrative spun out of whole cloth by creationists eager to assert the most narrow, literal-minded “understanding” of the Bible while blithely ignoring modern scientific findings, we co-opt the narrative.
“Oh yeah!” we say, “I’ve heard of that! It was like a paradise, where humans were nurtured and educated in the older dinosaurs’ superior culture and then lived peacefully together with them in a collectivist, artistic society where all contributed to the common good and practiced the best scientific method in order to arrive at knowledge. And it was a pacifist society, too, where everyone realized that private ownership of weapons posed a greater risk to the owners than any potential benefit they might derive from possessing them. Sounds like heaven on earth!”
See if that doesn’t have ‘em running for the hills, wishing they’d never concocted their crazy affinity for the preposterous fancy of the coexistence of humans and dinosaurs. “Sow good seed” you’ll gleefully shout at their fleeing backs, “like a grain of mother-fucking mustard!”