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Re: "Dinosaurs don't count"
I went back to Jessi's original post, and re-read the quote. While I
agree with the majority opinion that *Dinosaurs do INDEED count*, I think I
see something in the original quote that may make it a "passable" statement.
James Trefil states that: "...dinosaurs, because they were land animals
rarely left fossils, and you have a situation where the kind of fossil that
is most interesting to the public is probably least interesting to
The truth is the majority of the public know dinosaurs as gigantic
beasts long extinct. When a new dinosaur is found (even today), the bigger
the better as far as the public or media coverage is concerned. This view
Trefil seems to want to puncture by saying that "dinosaurs don't count" -
i.e. what is truly interesting science is not necessarily the behemoths of
the Mesozoic, rather it is the smaller, less famous fossils that scientists
crave for the detail information that they may retain.
In terms of shear numbers, dinosaurs don't count (not enough of them -
with very few exceptions), especially when compared with Trilobites, snails,
bacteria,.... - and as Tom stated, they (dinosaurs) certainly did not
overwhelm the biomass at the time.
Stephen Gould has (repeatedly) told us that even today, bacteria are the
dominant creatures when one looks at the biomass. (If we restrict ourselves
to multi-cellular [non-plant] organisms, then insects are the dominant
The definition of what counts is based on the author's prejudices -
perhaps he is using my arguments above to justify his statements; - perhaps
he is using some of George O.'s arguments - i.e. whatever generates (or
potentionally generates) the most money for the most people is what counts;
or maybe he was trying to be either very Zen or very "Hitchhikers'
Guide"-ish - in comparision with the entire universe - life is nothing,
extinction is the norm. (Hitchhikers' Guide: "Space is big...Real Big...
.... It is so big that statistically speaking, nothing exists...").
Perhaps Mr. Trefil was merely being an average human, who figures that
nothing that can bother him now, or in the next few minutes does not count.
(Maybe he is being anthropocentric - since dinosaurs don't lead to humans -
who needs them).