15 Aug Why kids don’t understand evolution
In Britain Top Trumps cards have been favourite games of 5 to 11 year olds for at least 30 years (one of my most traumatic childhood memories is dropping my entire collection while crossing a main road and seeing it become Top Trumps roadkill). I recently bought my son the Dinosaurs set as in-flight entertainment when going on holiday. The cards describe lots of dinosaurs, and have good pictures and descriptions, but I’m really annoyed with the Stenonychosaurus (also called Troodon) card. They are perpetuating the very problematic interpretation of paleontologist Dale Russell which moves from the large brain to body mass ratio of Stenonychosaurus to conclude that they were very intelligent and then that this dinosaur would have evolved into a humanoid dino-man if only they hadn’t gone extinct at the K-T boundary. This has been criticized many times previously. This quote comes from a blog by Darren Naish
“Furthermore, the humanoid body shape is not a prerequisite for the evolution of big brains given that brains proportionally as big as, or bigger than, those of hominids are found in some birds and fish (that’s right: humans do NOT have the proportionally biggest brains)”
Although the dinoman is often labeled as a “thought experiment” it is thought but no discernible experiment. The idea of human(oids) as the pinnacle of evolution is quite pervasive and is an easy thing to pitch at kids. No wonder teaching evolution is so difficult. This is especially bad as the real Stenonychosaurus is really cool.