The Art Gallery Heresies

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The Dinosaur Heresies, by Robert T. Bakker

A little more than twenty years ago, near the tail end of my tenure in high school or maybe my early days of college, I read a book by Robert T. Bakker called The Dinosaur Heresies. It's basically only slightly deeper than a popular science book in laying out its argument, which is, essentially, that the dinosaurs probably never went entirely extinct but are actually still all around us in the form of birds. Even more egregious: All the dinosaur exhibits you'd ever seen were put together incorrectly. Paleontologists were ignoring the evidence and nailing dinosaur bone fossils together as if they were building lizards and not birds.

The book was fantastically compelling, filled with tons of evidence, extrapolation, illustrations, and anecdotes. And Bakker rhymes with rocker: Bob Bakker writes like the rock star of scientists. Altogether a great book.

After reading it I was determined to get to the Museum of Natural History to see what they'd done wrong. Armed with my new knowledge of dinosauria, I was going to check out the exhibits and laugh at the deluded constructs of an earlier age. Ha ha!

When I finally made some time to get there, I found much to my surprise that the museum's dinosaur exhibits had been closed for renovation. Not the smallest part of which was, incidentally, rebuilding all the displays and skeletons to conform to Bakker's theories. Everyone, apparently, realized he was right, and they'd been wrong, and were quickly moving to fix things. Even the American Museum of Natural History, whose iconic dinosaur skeletons had stayed pretty much the same for generations of New York City schoolchildren, were remade in the image of the new vision.

Almost overnight, heresy had become orthodoxy. Nearly a hundred years of thinking was overthrown in barely an instant.

When I think about the current state of the art world, remembering the Dinosaur Heresies gives me hope.

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