How Does Studying Dinosaurs Benefit Humanity?
As with justifying any intellectual pursuit, such as painting and writing, dinosaur science cannot be evaluated simply on the monetary value of its products, even though they abound in popular culture. More importantly, studying dinosaurs provides important perspectives and appreciation of how humans are connected with other organisms and the natural processes that have and still do shape the history and future of our planet.Dinosaurs provide an intriguing and powerful vehicle for enhancing the public’s scientific literacy through illustrating how science works through proposing hypotheses that can be tested and analyzed with evidence from the fossil record. The popularity of dinosaurs can also be used to teach about other scientific disciplines because ties between dinosaur paleontology and other sciences abound: limits of dinosaur size and speed (physics), environments dinosaurs lived in (geology), the age of dinosaur fossils (physics and chemistry), where dinosaurs lived (geography), and how birds are related to other dinosaurs (anatomy).Studying dinosaurs has played a key role in developing evolutionary theory and other scientific concepts, such as plate tectonics and biogeography. All of these pursuits arise as a result of humanity’s innate curiosity to investigate how our world works and where we fit within the natural world we see around us.Finally, society has just begun coming to terms with issues involving our planet’s biodiversity and related ecological challenges. From this perspective, the fossil record documents that we now live with a minute fraction of all the organisms that have existed in the past on our planet. Yet, we are connected to all of those organisms, past and present, through the long evolutionary history of life. As the fossil record of dinosaurs and other organisms illustrates, changing climates and episodes of extinction have altered the course of Earth’s history for billions of years, a perspective that can help us better comprehend the challenges that we presently face.