Oh geez, not the 'Dinosauroid' again...


The "Dinosauroid", the human-like product of a thought experiment about what the descendants of the dinosaur Troodon would look like today if the theropod had survived the end-Cretaceous mass extinction, is back. This time it has been invoked as an "I'm just sayin'..." defense by Richard Dawkins in a discussion about what life might be like on other planets. The article itself is here, but be sure to check out Darren's excellent take-down.

My own thoughts on the Dinosauroid will be featured in the conclusion of my forthcoming book Written in Stone.

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I remember that from when I was in grade school! (Late 80's) I thought it seemed like a stretch even then.

By Stacey C. (not verified) on 11 Nov 2009 #permalink

How disappointing that Dawkins would buy into this teleological garbage. One need only look at the bloody thing to realise that it's just a projection of a few reptilian traits onto a straight-up human body plan. This is no serious attempt at all to imagine how dinosaurs would have evolved without the K-T extinction, it's just another display of ridiculous anthropomorphism and evolutionary ladder/chain of being thinking. (And the utter lack of imagination on the part of its advocates.)

I don't know if Dawkins actually buys into it, but his response to Shermer's point was pretty limp. "E.O. Wilson and Simon Conway Morris though about it, so it must have some merit!" The roles of contingency, constraint, and convergence in evolution are complex topics and I would have expected a more thoughtful response from someone held up as the "evolutionist laureate."

Dawkins also trips over himself when he brings up Neanderthals. Neanderthals do not show that something human-like would evolve twice because they were hominins that evolved from an earlier genus of Homo and our close relatives. Of course they would be similar to us.

As some have suggested, I have to wonder if these is some kind of response to S.J. Gould's thoughts on contingency and what would happen if we could hit the "redo from start" button on evolution. I can't imagine that Dawkins is unaware of the teleological/theological baggage the Dinosauroid carries with it, and if that's true I really don't know why he chose to use it as a counterexample to Shermer. And the continued popularity of the Dinosauroid is why a discussion of it is going to appear in the conclusion of my book.

I recall a science fiction story in Analog, back in the 90's. We explored the moon and found an abandoned colony which had been constructed by dinosaurs. The dinosaurs had evolved intelligence and ended up driving themselves extinct with atomic war. I googled around for this story without success, but found that there are a fair number of science fiction stories featuring intellingent dinosaurs with civilizations, etc. I thought you might find this interesting.

By Jim Thomerson (not verified) on 11 Nov 2009 #permalink

Jim; Thanks. I will have to look that one up.

Sci; Maybe, but it's been done (the Sleestaks from The Land of the Lost, aliens from V, etc. Apparently people love reptilian humanoids, heh.