On Dinosaur Intelligence

Did dinosaurs really have an extra brain near their butts? No.

Apparently, kids’ books and TV shows often make claims about the two-brainedness of dinosaurs. I’ve never heard about this before, but there’s a really good explanation here.

Facts aside (that phrase is used far less often than it needs to be, by the way), here’s a wonderful poem on the intelligence of dinosaurs, written by Bert Leston Taylor:

Behold the mighty dinosaur,
Famous in prehistoric lore,
Not only for his weight and length,
But for his intellectual strength.
You will observe by these remains
The creature had two sets of brains,
The one in his head, the usual place,
The other at his spinal base.
Thus he could reason a priori
As well as a posteriori.
No problem bothered him a bit,
He made both head and tail of it.
So wise he was
So wise and solemn
Each thought filled just a spinal column.
If one brain found the pressure strong,
It passed a few ideas along.
It something slipped the forward mind
’Twas rescued by the one behind.
And if in error he was caught
He had a saving afterthought.
As he thought twice before he spoke
He had no judgment to revoke.
For he could think without congestion
Upon both sides of every question.
O gaze upon this noble beast,
Defunct ten million years at least

“Thus he could reason a priori / As well as a posteriori.” Come on!

I should credit that I came across this poem when reading Dawkins’ An Appetite for Wonder. A pleasant read; looking forward to part 2.

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