Extinction and The Closed Loop

Megalosaurus Statue, Crystal Palace Park, 1852

Dinosaur bones and fossils have been being unearthed for as long as people have been digging walls. The first Chinese documentation has them put down as the evidence of dragons. A similarity that survives today in conservative Christian thought.  Christian Europe historically documented these creatures as the bones of those who died in the Great Flood.

The first descriptions and scientific papers on what might now recognised to be dinosaurs appeared around the beginning of the 19th century. In 1842 Sir Richard Owen coined the genus Dinosauria to refer to the growing discoveries of unrecognised and inexplicable specimens.

The early age of Dinosaur Mania that followed Sir Richard Owen led to the discovery of hundreds of specimens around the world including Antarctica but the way dinosaurs were thought of then were not how we might recognise our conception now. Obviously the visual interpretation and reconstruction of fossils was often flawed and vaguely humorous by today's standards but the idea that dinosaurs were extinct was simply not even considered.

Even at the end of the Industrial Revolution, paleontologists, anthropologists, biologists and naturalists still supported Plato's idea of the Great Chain of Being - the chain of life flowing from God to the lowest creatures, via Angels and Man. This belief didn't allow for 'spaces' and certainly the idea that God would allow His work to just 'die off' was incomprehensible. The dinosaurs were simply 'somewhere else.' Just take a look at Conan Doyle's Lost World and the plethora of science fiction about the hidden earth in the form of Jules Verne and HG Wells that tell us how the popular conscience suspected that the answers to all the world's unexplained secrets simply lay beyond view.


The hidden world can be taken quite literally. It was around this time, at the turn of the twentieth century that the gaps in the map were beginning to be filled-in. All but the deepest jungles and had been mapped and the community of nations was well established and in full communication. So it's only natural that inquiring minds would look for the Earth's hidden places underground, under the sea, and over the mountains. The industrial revolution and the power of the established empires in Africa and Asia had sated the public imagination with the idea of limitless growth and resources. Few could consider that somehow the earth had limits - that it was once different - that whole species could become extinct and that there was simply nowhere else to go. 

The end, the limited narrative in nature is a difficult idea for civilisation to face. We now approach the end of the Mayan calender with much pomp and lack of real circumstance. The Mayan's calendar didn't cycle when it ended, the world ended. So the solution for the Mayans was to add another, longer calendar on top so that time would continue, and another one on top of that, and another one and so on until the last one which ends in a few days. 

The Mayan calendar is as indicative of the understanding of the limited resource and possibility of civilisation and nature as the unfinished map and the dreamy sci-fi of the early twentieth century is indicative of the industrial civilisation's reluctance to accept it.