Cabazon, CA is a spot which few people could point out on a map. But it’s home to a roadside attraction most of us could dig out of a fog of road trip memories – two massive concrete dinosaurs – a brontosaurus and a t-rex – rising from the desert.
Cabazon is on the road from Los Angeles to Palm Springs, just where you’re about ready for a pit stop and maybe a bite to eat. Childhood memories don’t necessarily stand the test of time, but in this case, the dinosaurs were exactly as I remembered them. There was only one thing that I didn’t remember as a child – that the purported purpose of these creatures was to bring people to God. Apparently, my memory is correct in this regard because the peanut gallery of bloggers say that the creationist stuff was added by the current owner after the ‘90s, not cooked up by Claude Bell, who built the dinos.
An estimated 12 million visitors a year stop to see the dinosaurs, “making this the ideal location for helping people discover there is a God who loves them and who created them,” as the new owner puts it.
As someone not well-versed in the debate about whether humans and dinosaurs lived at the same time, I wasn’t quite following all the signs taped around the gift shop in the belly of the brontosaurus (which is actually an Apatosaurus), but it did pique my curiosity.
Post-vacation, I visited the attraction’s website, which links to answersingenesis.org. Here’s the nutshell of the debate:
Dinosaurs evolved 235 million years ago and were wiped out, probably by some sort of cataclysmic event, about 65 million years ago – well before humans roamed the earth.
“Dinosaurs first existed around 6,000 years ago. God made the dinosaurs, along with the other land animals, on Day 6 of the Creation Week (Genesis 1:20–25, 31). Adam and Eve were also made on Day 6—so dinosaurs lived at the same time as people, not separated by eons of time.” (http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/nab/what-happened-to-the-dinosaurs)
The argument gets far more complex and there is a huge page of frequently asked questions (Q: Were their dinosaurs on the ark? A: Yes.), but ultimately there is no debate because one side believes in the infallibility of the Bible and one side does not. It’s more like reading two different versions of reality.
As strange as it seemed that someone would go to all the trouble of building these massive concrete dinosaurs just to spread creationism, it was even stranger to find out that wasn’t why Claude Bell built them. In theory, he constructed them to attract people to his hotel. However, 11 years of your life and $300,000 is an astronomical investment, putting this project firmly in the realm of a passion project. Maybe that’s something extraordinary to ponder as you stand out in the desert, the 10 freeway at your back, gazing up at a life-size concrete Apatosaurus – what in the world possessed him?
Dinny is thinking on it.