Wednesday, May 28, 2008
I remember reading, during what must have been middle school, about what the world might look like today if the massive extinction event that occurred 65 million years ago and killed most of the dinosaurs had never happened. There seemed to be a trend in therapod evolution that selected for smaller size, bipedalism and increased intelligence. Some scientists hypothesized that, if not for the mass extinction, a sentient, humanoid species not unlike ourselves may have evolved. [This hypothesis was hijacked and explored by the 'live action thrill ride' Super Mario Brothers the Movie)
Since then, I've always wondered if there's something to the idea that advanced intelligence may be inseparable from a certain range of preconditions, such as size, metabolism (therapods were warm blooded with 4 valved hearts!) and strangely, even bipedalism. I mean, I often scoff at the depictions of aliens in movies and television as so similarly human in form and function, but maybe there's an evolutionary sweet spot, a goldilocks zone, for intelligence. Certainly Bonobos and chimps conform to these conditions, but they are our cousins so maybe they are not worth considering. Dolphins don't quite fit the mold, although we share a few important similarities. Octopuses are another famously smart species, and they too share some striking similarities.
Anyway, I don't want to get all humanoid-supremacist. But I thought this possible trend might be something worth considering (and perhaps it's more obvious or over-generalized than I realize.)