Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Stupid, Unadaptable, and Unprogressive

So many glorious contradictions! At the beginning of the week, I held aloft the painting Leaping Laelaps by Charles R. Knight as a glowing example of the active, vibrant view of dinosaurs that enjoyed public acceptance before they were recast in the role of sluggish brutes deserving of the mammalian coup d'écosystème.

Not so fast. In the very book I featured yesterday, the seminal Life Through the Ages, Knight himself has some rather unfriendly words to say about the dinosaurs. In fact, old CK gets downright bitchy! From Strange Science, a cool website which details the ups and downs of how science has built our modern view of natural history:
The pictures were beautiful, though some of the narrative was a little quaint. "Stegosaurus was, no doubt, the stupidest member of a very moronic family," [Knight] wrote. Of T. rex, Knight remarked, "He was just an enormous eating machine with an insatiable appetite and with practically no brains." And Knight's assessment of dinosaurs in general was, "They had been in existence too long, for they were stupid, unadaptable, and unprogressive."
I guess if we use Knight's logic, the longer we naked apes scramble around this spinning rock, the dumber we're going to get. Actually, I'm not inclined to disagree with that.

Seriously though, check out Strange Science. Full of great stuff like the "Goof Gallery," featuring artistic renditions of flawed reasoning, such Mary Mason Mitchell's depiction of Diplodocus with sprawling leg orientations and bellies that drag on the ground. I can only imagine the discomfort these poor bastards would have had to deal with just to take a stroll down to the ol' fishin' hole.

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