A debate 65 million years in the making

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The “Surviving Dinosaurs in Africa” lecture held on November 12, featured paleontologist Dr. Paul Bybee and folklorist Danny Stewart, both UVU professors, going head-to-head in a debate of the likelihood of dinosaurs still roaming the earth.

The night was full of theories, facts and unpronounceable Africa beasts and was not without controversy.

The thought of dinosaurs still alive today is not one that is widely accepted because it is surrounded by the words “folklore” and “mythology.” Even the age of dinosaurs was challenged, with research and opinions out on display.

Stewart started the discussion with the folklore side of surviving dinosaurs. The stories he told are mostly out a region in Congo, where there are over 20,000 dinosaur-like creature sightings recorded.

Stewart defined folklore as specific to the area, although he does address several variations on different fantastic beasts all coming from the same South African region.

“The scientific method has a hypothesis,” said Stewart. “I see folklore, fantasy and mythology as synonyms of hypothesis.”

He described stories of a specific creature that may still be living called the Mokele-mbembe, translated to “one who stops the flows of rivers,” which can be described best as a monster. With different variations depending on what region the story is coming from, the monster has been told to have a long neck, horns and/or breathe fire.

A creature resembling the descriptions of the Mokele-mbembe was found painted alongside lions and bulls around the city of Babylon. The same tiles used to make the walls have been allegedly found in the Congo.

“There’s nothing to back this up,” said Stewart “But it’s a fun story.”

Dr. Bybee took the floor to discuss the science behind the stories. While massive fossils of crocodiles have been found in North Africa, these massive fossils should not be confused with dinosaurs.

“Dinosaurs are prone to exaggeration,” said Bybee. The stories that are passed down through the generations are not the basis of a scientific hypothesis.

A track was found in the Congo that supposedly belongs to the Mokele-mbembe, but none of the fossils found in the area resemble the footprint allegedly found.

Bybee argued about the main reasons why science believes that dinosaurs are no longer roaming the earth. Fossil records and migration patterns are a few facts that can’t be ignored when it comes to dinosaurs.

What are the sightings, then? Bybee gave a few examples showing why things may seem different under the particular contexts, causing confusion to a person. As a result, when the story gets told animals transform into fire-breathing beasts.

For example, when a rhinoceros and a triceratops are shown side by side, all of the similarities can be seen. Thus, it can be understood how a rhinoceros could be seen as a monster by a passing glance. Someone seeing a rhino for a split second while it’s running through the trees and thinking they saw a dinosaur is not far-fetched, it is a trick of sight. This trick of sight is just as logical as the explanation for the sightings.

The idea of dinosaurs still roaming the earth was left up for debate, whether they are hiding in the Congo or swimming in Loch Ness.