While reading Distant space collision meant doom for dinosaurs I thought: what if, by chance, there had been no such collision? Would they have evolved into something more like “us”?
The dinosaurs had a good run: 62 million years. What would another 50 million have done for them?
Then again, you could say they never went away. Without them, we wouldn’t be who we are today: consider the role of fossil fuels in human evolution. We stand on the shoulders of giants, and all that.
It’s tempting to see a thread of continuity, of a very loosely phrased “evolution,” in which we follow them and are, in turn, followed by some other.
We have no certain explanation as to why mammals took off just as the dinosaurs went extinct but we do know that the history of our planet consists of alternating cycles of life and death: “a rise and fall of marine animal diversity [occurring] every 62 million years [followed by] a weaker cycle of rising and falling marine diversity, which repeats every 140 million years.”
The details of death – or, on a mass scale, doom – don’t really matter. Even if the dinosaurs had evolved enough to detect the coming asteroids and deflect them (oh, to see that movie! Jurassic Armageddon!), chances appear to be such that they would eventually “mistakenly” transport world-ending weapons from one base to another or succumb to some ingenious, fatal virus – all while competing with one another for resources.
I’ve seen enough movies to know that even “Dinosaurs in Space” would end badly. The obelisk in 2001 is a tombstone. It’s the living (and dying) planet of Solaris which holds closer to truth.
At least, this is how I talk myself back to sleep in the middle of the night.