That would be how a British tabloid might report this quite interesting episode. Michael Shermer argued in this short video for the Skeptic Society that “there’s no way that aliens, if we ever do encounter them, are going to be bipedal primates, let alone look just like us except for some gnarly stuff in their foreheads or maybe speak English but with an Indian accent.”
“Only one species in the history of life on Earth, over hundreds and hundreds of millions of species, only one has become a bipedal primate”, he argues. And as Shermer wrote on the SkepticBlog, “none other than Richard Dawkins” took an issue with that.
“I would agree with [Shermer] in betting against aliens being bipedal primates and I think the point is worth making, but I think he greatly overestimates the odds against”, wrote Dawkins, who referenced Simon Conway Morris, Edward O. Wilson and particularly the latter mention of…
The Dinosauroid. Dale Russell’s Dinosauroid, a scientific speculation on how the Troodon might have looked liked today if it weren’t extinct along with the rest of the dinosaurs. The end-result, as you can see below, would look like a round-headed biped surprisingly like us. Or so Russell speculated.
Immediately after publication, Russell’s speculation was heavily criticized, as it is to this day. It’s no surprise the Dinosauroid looked like us, as the speculation did have some assumptions that intelligent life would have a tendency to evolve in our direction.
Be sure to read the quick exchange between Shermer and Dawkins on the subject. The British skeptic ends his point like this:
“My guess is intermediate between your two extremes. I agree with you [Shermer] that androids are rare, that is indeed suggested by the fact that they have only evolved once on Earth. I agree with you that science fiction, and the alien abduction subculture, have an unseemly eagerness to imagine androids, which you are right to denigrate. But I suspect that androids are not so very rare as to justify the statistical superlatives that you permitted yourself in the vignette. I have discussed such matters in the last chapter of The Ancestor’s Tale. I think Conway-Morris goes too far in one direction, and you go too far in the other.”
Check also the comments on the post for an interesting discussion. Most people today know Dawkins as one of, and perhaps the main Horseman of Atheism. But before that he was already famous for his excellent science writing, which included no small dose of speculation and all the imagination that goes with that. I am a huge admirer of all of his work, though I do tend to appreciate the science promotion part better.
Another great skeptic also mentioned the Troodon and the idea of a intelligent dinosaur. That was Carl Sagan in “The Dragons of Eden”, another superb work that few people today seem to have read. Ironically, perhaps, “The Dragons of Eden”, as the name already makes clear, is full of references to the Bible. Just as metaphor, of course.
Now, God is certainly a delusion, but perhaps we do have some bipedal intelligent friends out there. Or is it? Do we?
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