For the last five years, the North Pacific Union Creation Study Center has sponsored DinoDig for school groups to learn how to excavate bones and what that means for our faith, but is it making a difference in the lives of those attending?
I'm a third-generation Adventist. I don't remember a time when I didn't believe in God, but when I was in my 20s, I went through a period of doubt. My lifelong belief was starting to sound ridiculous.
An all-powerful supernatural being created the universe? How is it possible that this all-powerful God has always existed? And even more crazy: out of the billions of people on the planet, He cares about me and will raise me from the dead to take me to heaven?
Yeah, I started to wonder. My doubts terrified me. I prayed to God to show me proof of His existence. Shortly after that prayer, my father-in-law gave us a video series on creation versus evolution, and part of that series showed compelling evidence of the flood through the Mount St. Helens eruption. I was blown away — no pun intended! This was the evidence I had asked for and it was exciting. That was my introduction to apologetics, the intellectual defense of the truth of Christianity.
Ten years later, I met my new boss, Stan Hudson, who was going to be working in a new North Pacific Union Creation Study Center. His primary role was to give church seminars and weeks of prayer out in the field, teach on the topic of origins and develop a museum/study center in the NPUC office for school field trips and family groups.
Five years ago, during one of his church seminars, Hudson was approached by Fred Cornforth, Community Development Inc. CEO, with a somewhat radical vision. He had heard about the dinosaur dig expedition Southwestern Adventist University leads in Wyoming every June and wanted NPUC teachers and students have the opportunity to attend a portion of the month-long expedition.
CDI offered to pay for transportation as long as Creation Study Center would plan and lead the trip. They have supported us each year since, and we've taken a total of 17 teachers, 45 students, 17 parents and three pastors.
Several of the teachers have returned with students two or three times. Two of our students have returned multiple years in a row for the entire month and are both determined to become paleontologists.
Jeremiah Rich, science and physics teacher for grades 7-12 at Cascade Christian Academy in Wenatchee, Washington, has attended twice.
“During the time we spend at Hansen Research Station, we excavate many different species from the Lance Formation, the most common being Edmontosaurus annectens, commonly known as a hadrosaur or duckbilled dinosaur," said Rich. "This dig site has produced thousands of bones which then go to a museum in Keene, Texas."
This quarry, run by Adventist professors, has pioneered many excellent techniques, including the use of GPS technology to accurately pinpoint the location and orientation of each bone before it is moved. This allows them to view the bones as they relate to one another in the soil before they are uncovered.
"Their research, which has now been published, provides a lot of taphonomic information that supports creationism using solid scientific methodology," said Rich. "It was a real pleasure to be able to introduce my students and others to these excellent researchers.”
Amber Moniz, parent attendee, said, “Being able to experience such a geological wonder in connection with the biblical knowledge of creation was fascinating. It was wonderful to see the students get so excited about digging dinosaur bones out of the dirt, and then understanding the care necessary to keep them intact as much as possible.
"Getting to see their wonder and amazement with each discovery and experiencing that myself was incredible," continued Moniz. "I also enjoyed how they paired the excavation with short informational sessions in the evenings to teach the kids more about what they were doing there.”
In 2019, a Barna study was released which showed an alarming 64% of young adults with a Christian background had dropped out of church. The number-three reason listed as to why they drop out is “because of the tension they feel between Christianity and science. Three out of ten feel ‘churches are out of step with the scientific world we live in’ (29%). Another 25% embrace the perception that ‘Christianity is anti-science.’”
Our goal is to change the perception that faith and science don't mix, using many resources and experiences including these annual DinoDigs.
DinoDig provides an introduction to apologetics for our young people, who will likely face opposition by the time they reach college age. It is very much an evangelistic outreach for the scientifically minded. There is so much evidence to support the Christian faith young people are desperately seeking, whether they realize it or not.
We hope to address this evidence, strengthen their faith and also provide support for teachers so they know what to say on the subject. One elementary teacher told us that when she came across the ice age topic in textbooks, she’d just skip over it. She didn’t know what to say. Attending the DinoDig gave her the tools she needed to confidently guide her students through the course.
We love what we do. It’s a lot of fun, but most importantly, it is making a difference in the lives of young people. Would you like to join us? Visit creationstudycenter.com/dinodig.