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Science and Unicorns

Anyone who knew me as a kid would have definitely described me as a science nerd. I enjoyed having strange pets, doing science experiments, playing with dinosaurs, and using my telescope and microscope.

But I also like to read a lot, and besides reading about science, I also liked to read about mythology. Particularly I enjoyed reading about the various mythical creatures that people from around the world believed in, and I’d wonder where the border between reality and fantasy really was.

In the modern world, people often dismiss stories of monsters and fantastic creatures as being nothing more than fairy tales.

But that begs a lot of questions. After all, stories of the Kraken, or Giant Eagles of tribal folklore were once dismissed as the stories of drunken sailors, or primitive superstition, but further scientific research confirmed that animals like these do exist, or in the case of the Giant Eagles, did exist at one time.

Surprisingly, I still sometimes hear people claim that “science says” that a particular animal doesn’t exist. I even hear this kind of statement from people who should certainly know better.

I don’t want to pick on any particular group of people, but I often hear this sort of claim from self-described “Skeptics” and Atheists.

To be completely fair, most Skeptics and Atheists wouldn’t come right out and say “Science says that unicorns do not exist.” However many will point and laugh at people from the ancient world and the middle ages for mentioning unicorns as if they were real animals.

They ridicule the Bible, for example, since some translations use the word “unicorn” and imply that any claim that unicorns once existed is somehow anti-science.

Now if you are a scientist, healthy skepticism is an important quality to have, however this is not the same type of quote-un-quote “skepticism” that I often see self-avowed Skeptics and Atheist groups proposing.

In my experience when these Atheists and “Skeptics” talk about being “Skeptical”, they mean that they dismiss anything that doesn’t fit within their worldview as being “unscientific”. This shows that these Skeptics don’t understand how science works. They are merely conflating (and confusing) their worldview with what can be empirically demonstrated in a scientific context. This is the complete opposite of the scientific method.

But is the claim “Science says unicorns don’t exist.” even a scientific statement? Let’s examine that claim using science, and using basic logic.

In Celtic mythology a unicorn is a horse-like animal with feet like a goat, a tail like a lion, and most notably a single spiral horn protruding from it’s forehead.

Unicorns are also found in various incarnations in mythologies from all around the world, and are not always depicted as even being a horse-like animal.

Scientifically speaking, there is no reason an animal with this sort of anatomy couldn’t exist. After all, in the case of the Celtic unicorn, the anatomy is essentially that of a horse, with a few minor variations. So it’s anatomy is certainly not outside of the realm of possibility.

But how does one determine, scientifically, that a particular animal has never existed?

When I hear people make claims along the lines of “Science says unicorns do not exist.” It shows me that they lack a basic understanding of what science is, and how it works.

To say that this animal does not exist is not a scientific statement. Science is about making observations and doing experiments to test hypothesis. And, of course, no one has ever gone into a laboratory, and done an experiment showing that unicorns never existed, and then gone on to publish a paper in a leading molecular biology journal entitled “Full Genome Sequencing Proves that Unicorns Never Existed”.

Such an experiment would clearly be impossible.

This mentality of “I can’t see it, therefore it doesn’t exist” is actually quite unscientific. In fact it’s a classical example of the logical fallacy known as an “argument from ignorance”. In this case the skeptic is making the claim “Because you cannot prove the existence of X, then X must not exist.”

Also, this ignores the fact that there have been many animals that were unknown to science, but were later discovered alive and well, or were later discovered in the fossil record. In fact scientists are finding new species all the time, both in remote regions of the world, and in the fossil record.

In other words, to say that unicorns never existed is not actually a scientific claim. It’s merely a statement of one’s own personal beliefs.

Some people might find unicorns to be silly, because of their association with magic and Pagan mythology, however there is a difference between personal incredulity, and science. Just because we might think something is silly doesn’t mean that it is unscientific.

Interestingly enough, the Bible is often criticized for mentioning unicorns in some translations, however scholars debate the exact meaning of the original Hebrew word that is translated as “unicorn” in the King James.

I know that some of my viewers might be Bible-believers, while others might not be, but for the purpose of this video, it doesn’t matter what your beliefs are. The focus of this video is an exercise in logic, science, and reason, not a theological proposition. But one thing that is for certain is that the books of the Bible are very old, and the people who wrote the Bible often wrote about things and people who were around in their time, including animals that lived in their part of the world.

The Bible was originally written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. The Hebrew portions of the Bible mention an animal which the King James translators translated as “unicorn” in several places. However, there is some debate amongst scholars today as to the exact identity of the animal being described, and various animals, both living and extinct, have been proposed.

Of course, at the time the King James was translated, unicorn did not necessarily refer to a horse-like animal, even in the English language. Often the word referred to a one-horned rhinoceros, or even just a one-horned animal in general.

The problem here is not that the King James translators were stupid or superstitious, it’s merely that the English language itself has changed over time, and words don’t always have the same meaning today as they had 400 years ago.

Furthermore, if you were to research the zoology of modern day rhino’s you would find that the Indian rhino is referred to with the scientific name Rhinoceros unicornis. This is due to the fact that they have one horn rather than two.

In other words, even today we have animals that are scientifically classified as unicorns.

There are a few more points that I want to make before wrapping up this video, but before I do I want to summarize by reiterating that just because we don’t see a particular animal, doesn’t meant that it doesn’t exist or has never existed.

The statement “Unicorns don’t exist.” is not a scientific claim. It’s merely a statement of one’s own personal beliefs.

Also, when we hear the word “unicorn” in a historical context, we should not assume that the speaker is necessarily referring to a horse-like animal, even in the English language!

Now here’s the best part of this video!

I often hear Skeptics object that we never see any evidence of unicorns in the fossil record.

Atheists and skeptics often proudly talk about how much they believe in science. But then they often show a lack of knowledge when it comes to what science has actually found.

When Atheists write blogs or magazine articles about science, they generally do not know what they are talking about.

In my experience, most Atheists know just enough about science to confirm their worldview, but not enough to challenge it.

So these self-proclaimed Skeptics might be unaware that scientists have found fossils of animals with a single large horn protruding from their skulls. These animals may not look at magestic as the Celtic unicorn, however it does meet the description of a large grazing beast with a single horn protruding from it’s forehead.

This animal’s scientific name is Elasmotherium sibiricum and is colloquially nicknamed the “Siberian unicorn”.

While this animal is very intriguing, I’m sure it’s not what many of you were hoping for. It’s still possible that the Celtic unicorn is a work of fiction, but it’s also possible that an animal like Elasmotherium gave rise to the unicorn legends. Perhaps when ancient people talked about unicorns, this is what some of them were referring to. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to look at this animal and say “horse-like beast with a single horn coming out of it’s forehead”, because that’s exactly what it is. Then again, if we are to be scientific about our approach, we have to be open to the possibility that an animal like the Celtic unicorn simply has yet to be discovered.

Now I know I am going to get comments about this.

Technically the Siberian unicorn is an extinct species of rhinoceros, however it’s not unreasonable that someone from the ancient world trying to describe this animal would describe it as a horse-like beast. Whether the Siberian unicorn was ever seen alive by civilized man is a valid question. It depends on when it became extinct, which is another valid question.

Considering the nature of rhinos and our knowledge of Earth’s surface, it’s valid to say with a great deal of scientific certainty that this animal is currently extinct. It’s unlikely that an animal like this, seemingly so well adapted to the cold would be hiding in some unexplored jungle or swamp in some remote region of the world. Also, with it’s large size and the extent of human satellite imagery, it’s incredibly unlikely that it could be hiding somewhere in the Russian wilderness.

We can base this conclusion on what we know about the animal’s biology, and what we know about Earth’s surface. This is different from the Skeptic who claims that unicorns never existed because he or she finds the idea of unicorns to be silly.

With regards to the fossil record and unicorns there is a strange irony. Evolutionary biologists routinely appeal to the incomplete nature of the fossil record to explain the striking lack of evidence for Evolution. Most people are under the impression that the evidence for Evolution from the fossil record is overwhelming, however top paleontologists who are themselves Evolutionists have candidly said otherwise. Obviously for the skeptic this will raise a lot of questions about archaeopteryx, australopithecines, tiktaalik, rodhocetus, ambulocetus, etc. however these questions are beyond the scope of this video.

The point is that Evolutionary biologists maintain that the fossil record is incomplete in order to explain a lack of evidence for many of their claims. The skeptic then comes along, thinking that he or she knows something about science, and complains about the lack of evidence for unicorns in the fossil record.

The irony here is striking.

It might also be the case that the horse-like animal that most people think of was a rare type of equine that was indigenous to a region of the world that was not conducive to fossil formation, or a region of the world that simply has not been thoroughly excavated. In fact there are probably a million possibilities we could come up with.

What we can say for sure is that there is still a lot that we don’t know about the world, even in the 21st Century. And we can also say for certain that there are at least two animals that are known to science which meet the older definition of a unicorn. So in that sense, science has proven the existence of at least two species of animals that can rightfully be called unicorns.

What do you think? What’s your opinion of this topic? Be sure to leave a comment, and be sure to hit “subscribe”!

Thanks for watching!

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Let me know what you thought, and let me know if there is a topic you would like to see me cover in a future video!


The closing of the script may varies a little from the narration.

The Biblical “unicorn”

Giant Eagle

Siberian Unicorn

Info on Rhinos being the Unicorns of the Middle Ages

Unicorn in ancient writing

Audio and Music


Songs - One of these songs did not make it into the final narration, but was originally going to be included in this video.


Most of the images in this video came from Pixabay and are free to use without citation. I cannot thank this website enough for creating this library of public domain photos.

Memes: All memes used in this video were used well within my “fair use” rights. Several of the memes used here included content from pop culture icons like the Shrek and Star Trek franchises. I do not own the rights to any of these franchises, nor do I suspect that the original meme authors owned any of these rights. Because of the nature of internet memes, it is nearly impossible for me to track down all of the original content used to create these images. If you own any of the material used to create any of these images, or if you know the original source material for any of the content, please leave me a comment in the description box, or contact me through my website at     Also, it is almost certainly the case that the views expressed by the meme authors do not necessarily represent the views of the authors of the original content.

The image of the green unicorn statue can be found here. It is public domain under the agreement that the original work is cited.

Image Copyright kim traynor. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic Licence. To view a copy of this licence, visit or send a letter to Creative Commons, 171 Second Street, Suite 300, San Francisco, California, 94105, USA.

The sergeant in the lab

Laboratory technician
Sgt. Ryan Morgan, a laboratory technician assigned to C Company, 407th Brigade Support Battalion of the 82nd Airborne Division's 2nd Advise and Assist Brigade, conducts a basic blood test at the Level 2 Aid Station at Camp Ramadi, Iraq, Sept. 6. Medical professionals at the aid station are working to keep their skills sharp to ensure soldiers remain healthy and combat ready. (Photo by Kissta Feldner)

African American scientist in lab coat measuring out the chemicals.

Group of three scientists in a laboratory

Elasmotherium sibiricum images that require attribution

By DiBgd at the English language Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0,

By DiBgd at the English language Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0,

By Ghedoghedo - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

By Apokryltaros at English Wikipedia, CC BY 2.5,

By DagdaMor - Rhino sizes.png, based on File:Rhino size comparison.jpg, CC BY 3.0,

CC BY-SA 3.0,