Drawing Out Leviathan
Dinosaurs and the Science Wars
Publication Year: 2001
Published by: Indiana University Press
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At age thirty-eight I returned to graduate school as what was euphemistically referred to as a “nontraditional” student. A previous Ph.D. (in philosophy) had gotten me a succession of part-time and temporary positions . . . and no hopes of tenure-track employment. In the fall of 1990 I entered the University of Pittsburgh’s formidable...
Introduction: Why the Science Wars Matter
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Like so many of my generation, I acquired an early fascination for dinosaurs. Movies, television, and comic books of the 1950s and 1960s treated us Baby Boomers to exciting images of fighting, feeding, and rampaging dinosaurs. Of course, most of the “dinosaurs” in the movies were the impossibly huge beasts of the monster-runs-amuck genre,...
1. Mr. Carnegie's Sauropods
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I begin with two scenarios: (1) On a spring morning in a long-vanished world, an enormous creature was dying. Driven by thirst, she trudged toward the slow, muddy waters of a great river. Her massive legs could no longer support her, and she fell into the riverbed to die. Before scavengers could tear and scatter the carcass, a violent storm washed it downstream. It came to rest...
2. The Heresies of Dr. Bakker
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The quotes from Will Cuppy and Gary Larson capture one popular image of the dinosaur: an evolutionary cul-de-sac, stolidly resigned to replacement by superior mammals. Combating this image of dinosaurs has been the life’s work of paleontologist Robert T. Bakker, a self-described “dinosaur heretic.” In 1968, while still an undergraduate student at...
3. The “Conversion” of David Raup
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What happened to the dinosaurs? Despite the fondest wish of many an eight-year-old, they are all gone. Well, maybe not. In their book The Mistaken Extinction, Lowell Dingus and Timothy Rowe (1997) argue that they continue to flourish—as birds. Still, for the nonavian dinosaurs, the Late Cretaceous was the final act, the end of the 160...
4. Are Dinosaurs Social Constructs?
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Because professors are a touchy and querulous lot (I am allowed to say this, being one of them), peace and harmony seldom reign in academe. During the 1990s a particularly nasty civil war raged among American university faculty. As with all academic conflicts, the issues seemed arcane to outsiders. For insiders, the debate concerned the very...
5. Le Dinosaure Postmoderne
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Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, and T. rex: Their images are icons of our popular culture. Everyone is familiar with scenes of Elvis gyrating or Marilyn with skirt billowing. Depictions of T. rex are similarly ubiquitous. A half-dozen images of dinosaurs can be encountered in a casual stroll through a drug store; a shopping mall can be a...
6. History, Whiggery, and Progress
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Comparisons are invidious, especially when they involve the awarding of superlatives. Though humans love to bestow such honors (Nobel Prize for Chemistry, Best Actor in a Leading Role, Collegiate National Champions, etc.), the criteria for rating anything “best” are often questionable. However, a good case can be made for regarding one...
7. Beyond the Science Wars
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So what do we really know about dinosaurs? They were big and fierce and are now extinct. What else? Dinosaurs are not social constructs. They really existed, and we definitely know certain things about them. Though they are icons of popular culture, and their images pervade the media, we can still say that some things about dinosaurs...
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Page Count: 240
Illustrations: 15 b&w photos
Publication Year: 2001
Series Title: Life of the Past