“Hey, this book says that the Diplodocus lived 150 million years ago. Seric wants to know if that's true? I told him it isn't.”
Daddio was clearing the table for me while I washed breakfast dishes, but now he paused to answer David.
“Why isn't it true, David? How do you know it isn't true?”
“Because dinosaurs didn't even exist that long ago!”
“How do you know that? How do you know they existed at all?” Daddio leaned against the countertop and waited for David's answer. The other kids all left their chores to come and listen.
“They found bones of it, and that's how they know it existed,” said David, turning the book around for us to see a picture of a dinosaur skeleton.
“Okay,” said Daddio. “So we can see from their bones that they lived; that is one witness that they lived. The bones don't lie. We can look at the dinosaur bones and at the bones of creatures that live today, like cow bones, and then you know that dinosaur bones represent a real live creature.”
“Yeah, because we've seen cows… ” said JudyLucy.
“Yes, exactly. You've seen cows and cow bones. And you've seen dinosaur bones, but not live dinosaurs. So, back to the first question; when did the dinosaurs live?” Daddio looked around at the kids. There was a short moment of silence before David answered.
“Well, you probably can't know for sure,” David faltered. “I don't know how you can figure out how old the bones are.”
“So,” continued Daddio, “how do we know they aren't from a dinosaur that died last week?”
David answered quickly, “Because the bones are fossilized. And because nobody saw a dinosaur last week.”
“Seric did.” The kids all laughed at Sarah's comment. “At least, he said he did.”
Daddio nodded. “Right, the bones are fossilized. And if it died last week birds and coyotes would eat it just like they ate the horse that died by the road last year. If that is what happened, would the bones be all in perfect order? Are the cow bones you find in perfect order?”
“No, the animals drag the bones apart.” JudyLucy said.
“So how is it that we have dinosaur bones that are perfectly in order, and not at all torn apart? How does a Diplodocus die and be perfectly preserved by fossilization so that it lasts for years and years?”
“Because something covered up the bones before any animals could eat it,” said David. “Like ash from a volcano.”
“So we're talking about some kind of event that would bury a whole dinosaur. And whatever happened would have to be pretty big and crazy… ” The kids nodded and Daddio continued, “So was it two weeks ago? Three weeks ago? A year ago?”
“We don't know,” Sarah said.
Daddio persisted, “But what if we dug down and found one under the house?”
“It would have to be over a hundred years ago then,” David said. “Probably more, since there haven't been any volcanoes here for a while.” Laughter.
“How many people do you know that saw a dinosaur years ago?” asked Daddio.
“How many have stories of parents or grandparents seeing dinosaurs?” The kids waited silently now, trying to figure out the end conclusion before Daddio got to it.
“None that we know of,” he said. “So there haven't been any dinosaurs in a few hundred years. Have you ever heard a story from anyone that lived in history who actually saw a dinosaur?”
“Yes,” David interjected quickly.
“Job. Job told about a dinosaur—Leviathan.”
Daddio grinned and nodded, “Okay, so what about the story of Leviathan? What did Job say about it?”
“That God created it. That it lived in the ocean.”
“Did he say that anyone kept it in their fish tank as a pet?” The kids all laughed and a couple of them started talking at once. David was intent on getting to the point and spoke loudly above their voices,
“No. It smashed up boats and people were scared of it.”
Daddio agreed and added, “Yes. And later God took over the conversation and talked about Leviathan too… Was He telling Job that people are powerful and great and have control of Leviathan?”
David shook his head. “No. He was saying that He, God, can make a creature that no one can tame or kill, because it was so huge and terrible.”
“That's right,” said Daddio. “God was saying ‘I have made a creature that all men fear.’ And what about the story of Behemoth in the book of Job. What did it say about Behemoth?”
“It said that Behemoth had a tail like an enormous tree,” David replied.
“Oh. That's interesting,” Daddio nodded. “So I think your Diplodocus had a tail like that.
“What I am saying is, at least in the book of Job, there was someone who told a story that was similar to the bones that we find today. From what it says in Job, does it sound like he was just imagining what he saw from looking at dinosaur bones or that he actually saw it with his eyes?”
“It sounded like he'd actually seen it with his eyes,” said David. It was clear from his expression that he was imagining seeing the creatures Job described.
“Yes, it does,” Daddio replied. “But the question remains, when do you think Job was alive? Was it 150 million years ago?”
“No!” laughed JudyLucy, and Daddio chuckled.
“The Biblical history says that Job lived in Mount Seir where the descendants of Esau had settled. And we have a pretty good idea of when they moved there because we have good dates regarding the Sumerians and the establishing of the city the Bible calls Ur. So Job's Seir was probably established between 5000 and 4500 years ago.
“We've got this guy, Job, who describes at least two great beasts that he apparently saw with his own eyes only 4500-ish years ago. One of them seems a whole lot like a Diplodocus.
“So we have one witness that there were in fact dinosaurs—the bones themselves. And then we have one witness that there were dinosaurs that match some of the bones we've found—Job. These two independent perspectives on the issue establish at least one point of observation that we can be confident occurred.
“Is there any other witness that can establish the possible fact that dinosaurs lived 4500-ish years ago?” Daddio looked around at the kids. David stared at him, trying to read Daddio's expression before he answered.
“That'll be hard! Probably impossible.”
Daddio shook his head. “Actually, it's not. There are other stories in ancient Chinese, Sumerian, and Meso-American texts about sightings of similar creatures in the same time frame. Unfortunately those texts are not well known outside academic circles.
“The next thing you might do would be to find those additional witnesses and compare their stories. Any two witnesses that corroborate each other are sufficient, but more witnesses can often provide a better picture.
You have to be careful about your witnesses though.”