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23 MIN READ TIME

EXTINCTION AND PREHISTORY

THIS MEGALOSAURUS JAW FRAGMENT WAS THE FIRST DINOSAUR FOSSIL EVER DESCRIBED BY SCIENCE.

Rembrandt Peale was mistaken about his carnivorous mastodon with the upside down tusks, but he was no fool. By 1803 when he was writing about the mastodon and touring England with the skeleton, Cuvier had already published powerful evidence that extinction was a real part of nature. Rembrandt was impressed by Cuvier’s description of “no less than twenty-three different species of animals…whose existence in former ages is attested by their fossil remains,” including the Siberian mammoth, the American mastodon, giant ground sloths, huge deer, and so on. None of those fossil species were known to still be alive.

Even by themselves, mammoth and mastodon fossils would suggest that a “time has been when numbers of animals…existed, had their day, and have perished.” If there were still mammoths around, people would probably know! But the combination of large numbers of large animals made Cuvier’s case completely convincing. As Rembrandt explained, “it is not possible that so many, and such large animals, should live unknown, although one or two species might.” The reality of extinction was undeniable, he said bluntly: “We are forced to submit to concurring facts as the voice of God—the bones exist, the animals do not.”

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One of the Most Fundamental Sources of Error in Human Judgment
Thinking Critically about Public Discourse
REVIEWS
A review of three books about the Salem Witch Trials
A Review of The Faith of Christopher Hitchens by Larry Taunton
JUNIOR SKEPTIC
Welcome back to the curious tale of mammoths and mastodons!
We ended Part One with a wonderful scene from 200
With new fossil discoveries and Cuvier’s research, it was becoming
At the same time that new fossil discoveries were revealing
The first few decades of the 1800s brought a wealth
It’s a lot of trouble to make money selling tickets
People who read newspapers during the 1800s found tall tales
We’ve come a long way since the days when mammoth