Re: Intelligent Dinosaur Paleo Civilization?

Tom Lathrop (
Thu, 15 Jun 1995 04:05:49 GMT

In article <3rmq6n$>,
Ethan Vishniac <> wrote:
>brian hval <74641.2061@CompuServe.COM> wrote:
>>Considering the short time span it has taken mankind to develop
>>civilization, perhaps in the long history of earth it has happened
>>before, maybe more than once and perhaps to more than one
>>intelligent species.

>Let me take a shot at this.

Me too (I've actually wondered about this once in a while).

One possibility is that they were intelligent, but their hands were
unsuited for using any kind of tools (think T. Rex). Imagine also that
unlike us they were physically well adapted to their environment, and
didn't really need tools for protection or food gathering. Creatures
such as this could have been highly intelligent and led highly
elaborate social and cultural lives without it ever occurring to them
fabricate the sort of objects that would survive until today. Olaf
Stapledon proposed such a thing in his classic novel Last and First
Men, in this case a race of peaceful and intelligent arboreal lemurs,
who were wiped out by vicious pre-human hominids, and other science
fiction writers have speculated on the same topic.

There are still problems though. If their intelligence made them
highly successful then they would probably have existed in very large
numbers for what we would see as a very long time (because if they were
not technologically inclined it would be rather difficult for them to
wipe themselves out). It's hard to imagine we would miss their remains
entirely (unless perhaps they were obligate and very thorough
cannibals). And if we speculate that for some reason they were very
restricted in range or extremely short lived as a species the whole
question becomes contrived and less interesting. (Yep, there were 10
of them all told, and they lived in a volcano :-).

But once you get into any real sort of technology, even pounding posts
into the ground to make huts, I think the traces are going to be pretty

(Still, I wonder what a Coke bottle would look like after 400 million
years or so in the rocks. Might we not think it the fossil of some
extinct line of shelled animal or something?)

Tom Lathrop | Politics: A strife of interests masquerading | as a contest of principles. -- Ambrose Bierce