Re: Intelligent Dinosaur Paleo Civilization?

Ethan Vishniac (
14 Jun 1995 14:03:03 GMT

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.

First, stone tools are a *lot* more common than any kind of skeletal
remains. Moreover, they tend to be quite distinctive (except, by
definition, very crude tools that may, or may not, have been used
at the dawn of technological culture).

Second, our current high tech society has mined out numerous mineral
deposits, to the point where ores containing several percent of the
desired material are now gone. Many of these deposits go back
hundreds of millions of years, or more. Our successors will have
to make do with much more dilute concentrations. No one with our
passion for metal working has been around before us, including
any hypothetical (extremely) ancient human civilization.

Finally, it's easy to imagine that we've missed a species of dinosaur
in the fossil record, in fact, it's inconceivable that we have
samples of every one that existed. However, I tend to think that
the ability to construct a technological civilization requires
a minimum amount of gray matter, more than the average mammal.
(Consider this comment amended to reflect brain mass divided by
surface area, or whatever your favorite statistic is.) If there
was a species of dinosaur that had the requisite smarts, then we're
not only missing specimens of that species, but specimens of that
genus and family as well. I think this is less clear than the
first two points, but I thought it was worth adding.

"Quis tamen tale studium, quo ad primam omnium rerum causam evehimur,
tamquam inutile aut contemnendum detractare ac deprimere ausit?"-Bridel

Ethan T. Vishniac
Dept. of Astronomy also Associate Professor of Astrophysiology
The University of Texas G.G. Simpson Hereditable Chair of Evilution
Austin, Texas, 78712 University of Ediacara `Knowledge, Wisdom, Beer'