The Death Of The Dinosaurs

... the impact theory of extinction? It's codswallop. William Clemens

I n an article written in '990, Michael Benton of the University of Bristol in England divided the history of dinosaur extinction studies into three phases.2 From the time the existence of the terrible lizards was first acknowledged in the '840s until around '920, their extinction was a "nonquestion": The great, lumbering, pea-brained beasts had simply lost the survival race to the more nimble and intelligent mammals—our ancestors. During the "dilettante phase" from '920 to '970, interest in dinosaur extinction rose, and many theories were proposed, some of them downright silly, as the quotation from Glenn Jepsen in the Prologue makes clear. During this phase, dinosaur extinction appears to have been treated, sometimes by otherwise serious scientists in respectable journals, as little more than a parlor game. Perhaps this was a defensive mechanism: Unable to explain with any significant evidence the most notable of biologic and geologic mysteries, we masked our inability by trying to turn the whole matter into a joke.

The "professional phase" of dinosaur extinction studies began about '970; by '980, when the Alvarez theory appeared, most paleontologists had already made up their minds. At Snowbird I, the late Tom Schopf, yet another fine paleontologist from the University of Chicago, spoke for the majority: "A satisfactory explanation of the cause of the extinction of the dinosaurs has been known for some years. . . . Probably more than 99.99999% of all the species that have ever existed on Earth are now extinct. . . . The dinosaurs are among these. Extinction is the normal way of life. ... As far as is currently known, it does not seem necessary to invoke an unusual

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment