Wednesday, November 4, 2009


One is as plausible as the other, if you ask me.  Except for the sneakers...

Dinosaurs bother me.

Stop right there.  This isn't going to be one of those "the Devil put dinosaur bones on earth to confuse man" sort of rants.  I'm not that kind of Christian (and by "that kind of Christian," I mean the kind who burns books and attends Tea Parties and really, truly believes that Pat Robertson can leg press 1,600 pounds; you know, the kind working to establish the Independent Republic of Glennbeckistan).  There used to be dinosaurs.  They are dead now.

What bothers me isn't so much dinosaurs: dead things, whether it's giant lizards or the starting lineup of the 1934 Saint Louis Cardinals, don't provoke much agitation.  What bothers me is dinosaur skin, and the way that skin is depicted in the scientific recreations of the beasts.  No one has ever seen a living dinosaur.  No one has really seen a dead one, just some bones and a few fossilized impressions left in ancient mud, which appears to show evidence of scales.  Nobody has any idea how they really looked.  So why is it that most dinosaur illustrations gives them the same desert camouflage paint scheme as Rommel's halftracks in the battle for North Africa, all tan and chocolate and stripey?

I searched for an answer to this burning question, and the best I could come up with was either, "It's our best guess, and besides, it looks cool, so quit bothering us" or "That's the way we've always made them look, and nobody else is complaining.  Besides, it looks cool, so quit bothering us."

Plausibility and tradition, the pulling guards of Team Supposition, are at work here.  That's fine.  It doesn't matter to me one way or another what color dinosaurs really were: so long as there isn't one chewing on me or on one of my loved ones, I have no beef with the dinos, be they tan or grey or purple and green or yellow with strange red spots.

 Prepare to be pancaked.

What I'm learning is that you better be ready if you're lining up opposite Plausibility and Tradition, because they will knock you flat on your back.  And if you're not careful, if you are not as clear-eyed and devoted to Getting To The Bottom Of Things as you can possibly be, you might find yourself signing them to your team.  It's easy to get things done when you have "It could have happened this way" and "This is the way it's always done" running interference for you.

Tomorrow, or possibly Friday, I will share the story of Sarah Sally Pearce, known to the citizens of Tyringham, Massachusetts as Crooked Sally.  It is a story of betrayal, and family dysfunction, of parental rejection and estrangement.  It's a story of poverty and mental illness and misery.  Maybe.  At least that's what the bones and fossils indicate.

We feel so comfortable saying "This is right, this is true," about so many things we know nothing about, whether it's dinosaur skin or our ancestors.  Or even the events of our own lives.

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