Dippy, diplodocus, goes to war with religion

Last week we went to the Dippy, the diplodocus, exhibition in Dorchester. It was fascinating to see the vast model of this dinosaur, which was attracting kids of all ages.  Later Dippy will travel round the country to the joy of many. It was an excellent exhibion but some of the “informative displays” were rather misguided and inaccurate as they relied on the whole idea of science and religion being at loggerheads with each other. It seems that those from the British Museum of Natural History are simply not up to speed. But first a description and then our visit

First, here is a description cribbed from Wikipedia

Dippy is a plaster cast replica of the fossilised bones of the type specimen of Diplodocus carnegii. The 105-foot (32 m)-long cast was displayed from 1979 to 2017 in the Hintze Hall, the central entrance hall of the Natural History Museum, in London.D

The genus Diplodocus was first described in 1878 by Othniel Charles Marsh. The fossilised skeleton from which Dippy was cast was discovered in Wyoming in 1898, and acquired by the Scottish-American industrialist Andrew Carnegie for his newly-founded Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh. The bones were soon recognised as a new species, and named Diplodocus carnegii.

King Edward VII, then a keen trustee of the British Museum, saw a sketch of the bones at Carnegie’s Scottish home, Skibo Castle, in 1902, and Carnegie agreed to donate a cast to the Natural History Museum as a gift. Carnegie paid £2,000 for the casting in plaster of paris, copying the original fossil bones held by the Carnegie Museum (not mounted until 1907, as a new museum building was still being constructed to house it).


The work involved in removing Dippy and replacing it with the whale skeleton was documented in a BBC Television special, Horizon: Dippy and the Whale, narrated by David Attenborough, which was first broadcast on BBC Two on 13 July 2017, the day before the whale skeleton was unveiled for public display.[1]

Dippy started a tour of British museums in February 2018, mounted on a new more mobile armature.[2][3] Over the following three years, Dippy will be exhibited at locations around the UK: Dorset County Museum (10 February – 7 May 2018),[4] Ulster Museum (17 September 2018 – 6 January 2019),[5] Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, the Great North Museum, the National Assembly for Wales, Number One Riverside in Rochdale, and Norwich Cathedral.[6]


And a timetable of Dippy’s wanderings around the country


Dippy is staying in the Dorset Museum in Dorchester and is sharing her stay with the “cold, cretaceous” novelist Thomas Hardy, who was writing his dark, but profound novels at the time Dippy was unearthed. And so the five of us went round and the two year old was enthralled. So was I!!

This photos show some of her vastness.


She made us look like midgets.


I hope she never got arthritis in her neck.


Big fat legs


Around the walls were more general geological displays and here is the map of the Weymouth Anticline  made by Mike House in about 1950 when he was studying under W J Arkell, who was prof of geology at Oxford in the 50s. House led my first university geological field trip to Swanage, but left soon after to take the chair at Hull. The only thing I remember of his farewell lecture was his description of some dino footprints on what was soft mud. The adult plonked her feet haphazardly, but baby dino planted her feet without crossing the cracks just as a human child would do.



Here is a local fossil ichthyosaur at the museum. One of the early workers was the Rev William Conybeare and an Anglican vicar and important early geologist in the early 1820s. As a geologist he was superb and had evangelical sympathies. Despite what is said in other display boards at the Dorset Museum, Conybeare was typical of his day and had no problem with vast geological time and spoke of “quadrillions of years”. He did have problems with the young earthers of his day!!


nice gnashers from a local


I simply cannot understand what this incoherent muddle means. I think both Conybeare and especially William Buckland (see below) would say just the same !!


How on earth can this be allowed in a serious museum? It is just muddled twaddle.


If, like me, you cannot read it, here it is magnified.


After my face-palming , here is my criticism.

  1. Take the sentence “During the 19th …… Bible.” First, it fails to note that Darwin published in 1859, and the dorset dinos were discovered 40 yrs before, so evolution was not on the table in 1820. In 1820 most scientists and educated Christians accepted the findings of geological deep time, with a few noisy objectors. Even by 1800 most educated people, Christian or not accepted deep time , as Martin Rudwick has shown in his recent books e.g. Earth’s Deep History or my modest contributions ; in the Evangelical Quarterly https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2017/11/09/genesis-chapter-one-and-geological-time-from-ussher-to-darwin/  which is a historical survey  and  a chapter in the Geol soc publication Geology and Religion on how Adam Sedgwick, a close friend and colleague of Conybeare and Buckland, dealt wit 6 day creationists of his day https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2018/02/03/how-to-deal-with-victorian-creationists-and-win/ (Today you are not supposed to speak about or to creationists like that!!)
  2. Dr William Buckland was a great geologist but a nutter!! Hw was the first to identify a Jurassic Mammal and instrumental in getting Ice Ages accepted in Britain. For much of his geological career he reckoned the Noah’s Flood was the last geological event, with vast geological epochs before it. At that time it made sense and in some unpublished writings (now at Oxford) regarded the flood as caused by melting ice from the Ice Age. Read my article in the Proceedings of the Geologists Association on his excellent work (and Darwin’s)  on the Ice Age in Wales . There is a reference to it and access at the end of this blog.  https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2017/08/04/darwins-boulders/
  3. Willaim Smith produced the first geological map of any country in 1815 – England and Wales, but in the 1790s held to a 6 day creation. However he was disabused of that by two local vicars; Richardson and Townsend!
  4. Lastly, the commentary by Henry and Scott. This was a later collation of commentaries by Henry  (1670s) and Scott (1800) neither of whom took any notice of geology!

And finally something on the greatest woman fossil collector Mary Anning


It was great meeting Dippy , but a disappointment at some of the shoddy historical material.

Sadly, it has to be said that today a higher proportion of Christians believe that the earth was created in 6 days than when either Conybeare and Anning were unearthing ichthyosaurs in the 1820 or at the end of the century when Dippy saw the light again.



2 thoughts on “Dippy, diplodocus, goes to war with religion

  1. David Campbell

    Somehow a bit of a later point got stuck in #1 above: “Martin They put up a combined commentary on the bible by Henry (1670) Rudwick”



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s