Saturday, April 24, 2010

Our mollusk overlords

In a thread on Twitter, our friend Southern Fried Scientist made this claim: "rewind the tape and mollusks could have easily replaced vertebrates." Rewind the tape is a reference to Stephen Jay Gould's Wonderful Life. In the final chapter, Gould argues that there was nothing inevitable about the course of evolution, that it does not aim toward any result. We are a fluke. Intelligence is a fluke. Rewind the tape, start over, and you might get a different story every time.

Many of you are probably familiar with the humanoid dinosaur imagined by the Canadian paleontologist Dale Russell in the early eighties. Russell presented a thought experiment wherein the end Cretaceous extinction never happened and the Troodon evolved into an intelligent, tool-making biped that just happened to look a lot like one of the extraterrestrial species that a subset of UFO buffs believed in. This idea that evolution tends towards something human-like is exactly the opposite of what Gould believed. However, the illustrations and models that Russell's intelligent dinosaur spawned were too irresistable and refuse to go away.

Southern Fried's mollusk world needs its own intelligent, tool-maker and an illustration. I humbly submit the following:

Tell the Discover Channel that SFS and I are open to discussions of a documentary about mollusk world and marketing plans for super mollusk.

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