Diego Maradona in Spat with FIFA calls Organisation a “Dinosaur”

With the controversy surrounding the world football organisation FIFA and its president Sepp Blatter, who was elected unopposed to serve yet another term, the former Argentinian captain and World Cup winner Diego Maradona has waded into the fray referring to FIFA as a “dinosaur” stating that the global soccer body was ruled by people who did not actually know how to play the game.

This got us to thinking how often the term “dinosaur” is used these days as an insult or put down.  Recently, a union associated with the communication and logistics industries in the UK was referred to as a “dinosaur” by commentators who queried their response to proposed working practices.  Reaching for our dictionaries we noted that two definitions for the word “dinosaur” were given. The first – an extinct reptile from the Mesozoic era, often of enormous size and secondly – a large and unwieldy system or organisation especially one not adapting to new conditions.

The public’s perception of dinosaurs seems little changed over the last fifty years or so, despite the wealth of documentaries, books and internet site portraying these animals as very much more dynamic than previously imagined.

Not so long ago, a genuinely serious theory about the extinction of the Dinosauria proposed that they “simply became to stupid to survive”.  This theory was given credence by a number of academics, although fortunately it has rather fallen by the wayside.  How such a diverse and successful group of reptiles can end up being part of an insult, appertaining to slow and unwieldy organisations seems a little perverse to us.  From humble origins, this Superorder became the dominant vertebrate animals on land for something like 150 million years.  They are a spectacular success story with their descendants the birds still doing rather well today.  Indeed, my colleague tells me that there are still more species of birds on the planet than they are mammal species.

It seems that using the term “dinosaur” to represent and inefficient, outmoded person or organisation seems a little bit unfair   On balance the Dinosauria were rather successful, arguably more successful than many Orders of Mammalia, including our own part of the Mammalian family tree, after all, unless there is some ancient ape-like creature lurking unseen in the Himalayas or some form of Gigantopithecus hiding in the Rockies, or indeed pygmy- like “hobbits” on the Indonesian island of Flores, Homo sapiens is the last human species to be found on Earth.

In biological terms, such a limited genus could be prone to extinction – heading for what we term a “dead end branch” on the tree of life.  The ballooning of the human population on a world with finite resources is putting pressure on Earth’s ecosystems – the geological record in the future when lead to a re-interpretation of just what is successful and what is not when it comes to hominids own role in the story of life on Earth.  What intrigues us is what will be around to interpret this record and make sense of our own role in evolution.

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