Insults not just against the Dinosauria

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Geologists generally have a fondness for dynamic terminology to label earth processes they study. (life size dinosaur model)A pulse of mountainbuilding activity is thus known as a revolution, and the Laramie Mountains, folded and raised in Late Cretaceous times east of Como, are described as the products of the Laramide Revolution. Tacked onto the bulletin board of the student offices in the University of Wyoming, where Late Cretaceous mammals are a specialty, is a poster in the best 1919 Bolshevik style. The earth explodes upward, Triceratops tumble over backward stunned into extinction, as a giant furry fist thrusts through the land surface clutching the banner “Join the Laramide Revolution.” And to hear the mammal paleontologists talk, after a few pitchers of beer in the cowboy bars, it happened that way. (life size dinosaur costume)With the geological equivalent of the “Hallelujah Chorus,” the irresistible new wave of mammals swept aside the old order, replacing the sluggish brawn of the dinosaurs with the energetic intelligence of the Mammalia. Such talk is annoying. But we few dinosaur specialists huddle together at the dark end of the bar, muttering in our beers about the insults—insults not just against the Dinosauria, but impugning the honor of every turtle, crocodile, snake, frog, and salamander as well.


In European culture, the anti-reptile bias began centuries be fore the stratigraphic sequence was discovered. (full size animatronic dinosaur)The very word “reptile” has a pejorative etymology. Derived from the Latin adjective reptilis, “creeping,” the term originally was applied indiscriminately to anything low-down and loathsome—scorpions, centipedes, snakes, and lizards. Ever since classical antiquity the Reptilia meant roughly the equivalent of “creepy-crawlies.” (realistic animatronic dinosaur costume)Aristotle, the ancient Greek naturalist, and the Christian philosophers who revised and edited his texts, put lizards and snakes low down in the scale of animate creation, far below cats, dogs, birds, and mongooses. The idea that all of nature could be arranged in an ascending scale of complexity and perfection was extraordinarily popular among medieval scholars. The principal criterion by which any species would be assigned its place on the Scala Naturae was how close it came to the unchallenged holder of the top rung, Man Himself. According to this view, the Creator, in His wisdom, put His best blueprint into production with the human race; the other mammals were close, but the scaly, crawling things were far from His Own Image. Even when Darwinism cleared away most of the creationist mythology from Western science, an evolutionary Scala Naturae was easily substituted for the theological one.