Of Dragons and Bellybuttons

It was the late Martin Gardner who introduced me to the interesting ecclesiastical debate over whether Adam and Eve had bellybuttons.  Given Moses’ (a pen name for God) account of their in- / con- ception, it is clear that they were not born viviparously to a mammalian mother, and so would not have the bumpy scar left by that traumatic event.  If they did, it would be a deception, a little like Agatha dropping a few obfuscatory clues.  Surely Moses would not do that.

In China one seems never far away from dragons, though in my travels I have more often seen facsimiles than the real thing.  In any case, I went out in search of clues to dragons in a lovely valley off to the west of Kunming, Konglong Gu, alleged to harbor many such clues.  “Konglong” translates as “terrible dragon”. You hard-core Linnaeans might object that a more accurate translation is “dinosaurus”, but we all know that’s just a Greek smokescreen for “terrible lizard”. Let’s not quarrel over trivia.

Of course, there’s a lot of good-natured kitsch to be seen there, like a merry-go-round with wooden horses replaced by mini-dinos, and the periodic roars emanating from the dinosaur replicas scattered about the park (which, I suspect, are not based on a scientific study of the structure of dinosaur larynges.)

But a very large structure shields a remarkable collection of reassembled, fossilized skeletons from the weather.  Someone has counted them; not me.  Other displays show the fossils in various states of reclamation, including of “live” workshop in which bones are being painstakingly freed of adhering soil.  When one extrapolates from the pace of that work to the hundreds of completed skeletons all about, the admission fee snaps into perspective.

The far side of the building covers a complete gully, which gives the impression that a paleontological dig is really child’s play.  Here a collapsed skeleton, there a clutch of eggs.  The vegetation has been obligingly removed, and a well-placed light draws your attention.  But even so these are low-hanging fruits, yielding lots of juice for the squeeze.  And it’s no wonder the valley has been a focal point for paleontologists since the first remains where discovered in the 1930’s.

A femur is a femur, a mandible is a mandible — any amateur can recognize them — even though they may be out-sized and over-toothed.  It’s truly impressive how body plans have been recycled.  Evolution is not iconoclastic.  On my stroll through the valley garden I was accompanied by two comely Finnish nurses, but all the time I was imagining taking the stroll with Charles Darwin.  Charles would have loved it, even the merry-go-round.

Being oviparous, dinosaurs assuredly did not have bellybuttons.  But the argument that these fossils were placed here (in China no less) by some higher intelligence as false clues to test my faith in the Mosaic description and chronology seems ludicrous, even by papal standards.  I failed the test with flying colors!

One Response to “Of Dragons and Bellybuttons”

  1. YANG CHAOBAO says:

    Thank you very much for introducing kunming,Yunnan to others

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