Sussing out religion and science deep in a comments thread, Eric B. goes way, way back to Sir Edmund Gosse’s father Philip for this tidbit:
…he argued that God planted all of the dinosaur fossils, etc. as an attempt to trick and tempt people into the sin of rejecting creationism.
(That’s kin to the “omphalos argument,” from the navel, i.e., “Did Adam have one?” And Edmund chronicled their relationship in the classic Father and Son, predicting the evangelical-science strife to come.)
I’m struck by the theatrical, literary flair of the argument. God matters more than the world He created, so we can assume it’s a stage set. Quit teasing and raise the curtain. I love the image, which is especially good for fantasy/SF, as in the beginning and ending of the Chronicles of Narnia (religious), the first Matrix (faux-philosophic), or Dark City (intertextual). And others, like Electric Warrior.
I’ve never forgotten it since reading it as a kid– it’s a DC comic about a rogue robot in a futuristic city. Doing stuff. That is, I’ve never forgotten the ending. It ran for 10? 12? issues until the plug got pulled. Rather than just stop, or even resolve the plotlines set to run on and on, its creators sent down a spaceship to tell the cast their whole world was an elaborate stage set. Hop on, let’s get out of here. I even think they asked about the dinosaur bones, and they spaceship captain was like, “we planted them! Come on, I’m gonna miss my shows.” I guess it’s a meta way of flipping the bird at editorial.
So I don’t remember it very well (and I much prefer the dust on my memories to Google blotting out yet another part of my mind.). The ending floored me, though. Life hadn’t yet pulled any rugs out from under me– I was very young, my family all still living, and as to Santa, losing him didn’t stop the toys. And stories, for a kid miles from any other kid but his brother, offered a consistent escape in exchange for being given life by my attention. Having that attention betrayed made a mediocre work linger. The first one hurts. The next few times, as with Blazing Saddles‘ ending, I just got mad. Mel Brooks was flipping the bird at me! Then I got jaded and in on the joke, which meant I gave less and less to stories. (Until much later, when I needed them again.)
Now, like everyone else, I’m just navigating the huge swath of competing, contradictory stories without much dissonance. It’s a condition of media, spin culture, whatever comes after postmodernism. I’d love to wipe out the stories I disagree with and so reshape the world and school board to my liking, but in the end it might be all I can do to ignore them. Others disagree, and go through mental acrobatics that put Adam on a dinosaur, impressive to say the least.