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RE: The Last Dinosaur Book(long)



One last addendum in reply to Matt Celesky, re dinosaurs as clan signs, or
symbols of the social collective.  Most of my examples of this come from
literature, including paleontological writing, or from historical accounts
of the "games people play" with the dinosaur icon.  But I think Matt is
right to be skeptical about the notion that social collectives CONSCIOUSLY
adopt the dinosaur as their totem the way traditional societies did.  This
is a very complex issue. In fact, I think many people who are interested in
dinosaurs as scientific objects find the idea that they might also be modern
totems to be a bit disturbing.  It seems to compromise their scientific
status.  My own aim is not to question the scientific reality of the
dinoaur, but to look (scientifically) at its cultural status.  There is a
sense, then, in which one has to say that the totemic character of dinosaurs
is unconscious, or at least semi-conscious.  I say "semi-" because I think
everyone accepts that they have some cultural function well in excess of
their scientific importance.  The real debate is exactly what that function
is.  I've offered the totem hypothesis; I think it can be falsified, and
clearly it needs to be modified in many ways.  Tom Mitchell