Saint George slaying a dragon, as depicted by Paolo Uccello, c. 1470

All day last Friday, a cyber-war waged over, essentially, books: textbooks versus The Good Book; Peer Review vs. the Psalms, etc. Starting at 9 a.m. EST that day, on Reddit (the famous entertainment and news social networking website), a ‘Redditor’ posted a quote from Mumsnet (a parenting website), by a member of the Facebook group “Christians Against Dinosaurs (CAD)” who called herself “CADministry.”

The CADministry post that started it all: I am getting sick and tired of dinosaurs being forced on our children.” Described as part of a diatribe recently posted by a member of a “Christian group [that] wants references to dinosaurs removed from school curriculum,” the quote was linked to the Australian news site abc13.com.

It went viral.

The Reddit Ruckus

Comments on Reddit sky-rocketed to 4,222 in a mere seven hours.

The first reply: “What kid doesn’t want to learn about dinosaurs?”

The first reply to that first reply: “A sad kid.”

Five hours later, when that last reply had received 1,900 upvotes all on its own, the responsible poster thanked Reddit for giving him his “top comment ever” and left to hit “a science museum.”

Generally, the Reddit comments that day ranged from mild outrage, to mild outrage at the mild outrage…to a mildly growing doubt that any of it was real.

Indeed, sometime after the originating Redditor posted more excerpts from CADministry’s diatribe, Reddit administrators called it quits, removing it from the “news” section, and placing it under “satire.”

The follow-up quotes from CADministry were thus: “At my children’s school, several children were left in tears after one of their classmates (who had evidently been exposed to dinosaurs) became bestially-minded and ran around the classroom roaring and pretending to be a dinosaur. Then he bit three children on the face….Recently my sister foolishly gave my two youngest some dinosaur toys for Christmas. After telling her to get out of my house, I burnt the dinosaurs. My children were delighted because they know that dinosaurs are evil.”

Really?

The ABC news story

Anyone investigating further landed at the site where the Redditor found the quote: ABC-13 Eyewitness News (Australia). There, the full story was headlined: “Christian Group Claims Dinosaurs Are a Lie, Wants Them Extinct From Schools.”

This was certainly possible in parts of the U.S. But under a photo of kids smiling happily at a skeleton, the story noted that ABC-13 got the story from the tabloid Mirror, adding: “It’s unclear if the group is satirical.”

Many of the 232 commenters cheerily volunteering thoughts on the matter at 4 p.m. didn’t seem terribly concerned either way, more interested in determining whether the pictured skeleton was of a dinosaur or “a dognosaur.”

The Mirror story

The source of ABC-13’s story, Australia’s Mirror, clarified nothing. There, too, no one seemed sure whether CADministry and her dinosaur-hating hombres were real. There, too, no one seemed to care, happy simply that they all might be real. “Hilarious concerns include worries that teaching kids about dinosaurs tells them that  ‘being cold-hearted will win you the world for millions of years,’” read the sub-head.

Then the Mirror moved on to breaking news: an academic’s find that dinosaurs were the original stoners, “tripping triceratops,” grazing “upon a prehistoric form of the psychedelic drug LSD.”

Mumsnet

That trail led to the Mumsnet site, and, at last, the original post. Someone named CADministry had, indeed, left a diatribe excoriating dinosaurs and exhorting all to help her drive them out of schools by joining the Facebook movement Christians Against Dinosaurs.

In the span of one hour that Friday, mid-day, the number of Facebook “likes” given to that global call to exorcize schools of demon dinos jumped from 34,000 to 35,000. Yet even on the gentle Mumsnet there were a cynical few who couldn’t quite believe this Banish Barney movement was real—but who enjoyed entertaining the notion it might be. “You know,” mused a poster named Polyesterslacks, “that dinosaurs are just a gateway to the harder stuff. One day your children are watching Walking With Dinosaurs, then suddenly they’re on to the hard stuff and reading “The Origin of Species”…Dinosaurs, just say no!”

Banishing pre-history

To land at last on the storied Facebook page, and to see it was indeed called “Christians Against Dinosaurs,” was to feel the movement may be real after all. The membership size was respectable, at 7,750 by nightfall that day (11,200 by the end of that weekend; and 11,840 by end of day Tuesday).

A satirical cartoon from 1882, parodying Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, on the publication of The Formation of Vegetable Mould through the Action of Worms (1881)
A satirical cartoon from 1882, parodying Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, on the publication of The Formation of Vegetable Mould through the Action of Worms (1881)

The debate there was red-hot, with so many genuine brawls breaking out between evolutionists, creationists, and Young Earthers—who say dinos existed, but alongside humans— site administrators were deleting hundreds of posts per hour, they claimed. Some of the less intense, if well-attended, discussions involved a photo of a 150 million-year-old fossil, posted by an academic type, who asked what people thought it was, if not a dino.

Among the 319 answers he received in three hours: “lizard,” “angel,” and “extinct winged hamster…or a goat.”

The ditsy dino thing had, one way or another, touched thousands of nerves worldwide. Sure it was real, one began to think. There were, after all, crazy anti-science groups all over the U.S., the craziest of all, perhaps, residing in the United States Congress.

But one glance at the column to the right of the site ended the mystery. CAD’s top-ranked “suggested group,” the one most likely to appeal to its members, was: “Dinosaurs Against Christians Who Are Against Dinosaurs.”

Tis not (entirely) real.

It did start out entirely real, however, a recognized paleontologist on the Facebook site said. But when it was fully real–comprised largely of believers, not a confusing mix of believers and gawkers–it was very small. The vast majority of the 11,800-plus trolling, gawking, and deadly earnest members– on both sides of the issue– joined only recently, in reaction to the Reddit post.

So while peer-review science may be in danger of extinction in parts of the U.S.—and perhaps Congress— it is, at this moment, safe from CADministry’s particular movement to banish all of prehistory.

For now.

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