I love dinosaurs. I love dinosaurs so much that if I were capable of math and lived a life of opportunity I totally would’ve become a paleontologist. But I think all science requires math and I just don’t get along with numbers. So, I’m stuck on the non-sciency just reading about them end of things. And, you know, museums. We have lots of fossils still being excavated here in Colorado. They closed down our local Dinosaur Museum & Research Center where you could watch and talk to people working on the fossils because they didn’t have enough room for their collection so they couldn’t charge enough in admission so they’re looking for a new building. Or at least the last I heard about it. But here’s me sitting on part of a dinosaur leg (cause they told me to, not cause I’m a horrible disrespectful person):
And here’s my much taller than me buddy standing next to another leg fossil:
And when you’re around these huge fossils that tower over you and are strong enough to hold your weight you go “sure, the last one was 59 million years before humans hit the scene, I buy that.” But then you’ve got new species being discovered daily, things on islands and in rainforests that we know nothing about. We’re still discovering new fossils all the time, new species of dinosaurs that died all these millions of years ago, and if we don’t know even all the dinosaurs that existed how can we legitimately say when they all died out? Just 4 months ago we got a Jurassic Park moment and found a dinosaur tail preserved in amber and found that an already known dinosaur had feathers. Scientists are rethinking everything we learned in elementary school about these giant lizards and now thinking that even the T-Rex likely had feathers and that it wasn’t just a late stage evolutionary development like previously thought. And where did we find this miraculous discovery? In a market where it was being shaped for jewelry. So how many more pieces like this are out there that have been entirely unknown to the scientific community while someone unknowingly wears it for decoration? They still say this particular dinosaur is 99-million years old, but for me it is one more reason to ponder how much there is that we think we know that is going to change dramatically as we continue to explore and discover.
I once had a co-worker send me a random IM out of the blue that simply asked “How do you feel about dinosaurs?” and that was hands down the best cold-open to a conversation I’ve ever experienced. Enough so that I stole it and started using it with other people when conversations hit lulls. One person answered that his favorite dinosaur was the Pterodactyl. Did you know that Pterodactyls (and other Pterosaurs) and prehistoric water creatures like Plesiosaurs and Elasmosauruses aren’t actually dinosaurs? They’re animals that lived at the same time as dinosaurs. But they aren’t dinosaurs. I remember telling my sister that when I was 6 (maybe 7, but I think 6), and her arguing and my defense being “my teacher told me.” There was no google back then so she never believed me and made fun of me for the next decade saying that any time I told a lie I backed it up with “my teacher told me”…. well, my teacher told me, and she was right. Does it matter a lot outside the scientific community? Probably not, but it’s one more misconception that people still hold onto (the person who said Pterodactyls were his favorite dinosaur was a good 10 years younger than me.)
I stopped asking the “How do you feel about dinosaurs?” question when I asked a very religious friend who responded “I don’t believe in them.” and this thought was so brand new to me that I think I just blinked at him and the conversation fell entirely flat. The idea of not believing in something that there was actual physical evidence of had just never occurred to me. I wish I could re-have that conversation with him, because he’s not stupid and not crazy and having had time to process it I have a million questions I wish I would’ve asked, but his new wife doesn’t let him talk to me anymore cause oh no I’m a girl -_-
I have always just assumed that the not believing in dinosaurs ties in with the being ultra-Christian, and that’s possible, but I’d have liked to ask and to discuss things like the Behemoth in the book of Job, and the Leviathan featured in both Job and Psalms. Obviously there are other possible explanations for these things, but as the website linked to describes, there aren’t modern animals that REALLY fit the description of the creatures described. Similarly, there are dinosaurs depicted all over the place in the art of the ancient world. How did ancient people know about the existence of dinosaurs? Undoubtedly some are forgeries, but they can’t all be, some are built into ancient structures in ways that can’t be forged. Can we assume that ancient people around the world were finding full body fossilized dinosaurs and putting together art and myths based on them? Are they responsible for all of the worldwide myths of encounters with dragons? What precisely did Saint Columba encounter in Loch Ness?
Even modern folklore depicts “flying snakes” so common in Wales that they were hunted like foxes for being a menace to chicken coops. In Karl Shuker’s book From Flying Toads to Snakes With Wings he quotes first hand accounts of people who saw these creatures both alive and dead, and who had their hides in the family as trophies but they were common enough to have been discarded after the death of whoever was proud of their kill. Is it possible that dinosaurs and other prehistoric counterparts lived far longer than we believe they did, and that largely their bones were ground and used for magical or “medicinal” purposes like so many other animals have been throughout human history, but there are some waiting to be discovered in some remote section of the world? Is it possible that some dinosaur species still survive in even more remote sections of the world?
I’m not saying that they DO. It’s certainly possible and hugely supported that that comet came along and wiped out the big and the small and the undersea and in the air all the same and they were all long gone by the rise of man. But to quote Donald Rumsfeld “There are known known. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know.” I think most of the world thinks of dinosaurs as fitting in the “known known” category, but in the end we are still just working with theories, and we are still making discoveries, and I think there’s more left in the “unknown unknown” category than we can imagine.
What are your thoughts? Do we know everything there is to know about the history of dinosaurs in the big picture? Did it all end in a big cloud of dust?
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Today’s music can be found on Amazon.com:
Album: Habits Old & New