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Monday, April 17, 2006

Paleontology in action!!!





First, these pictures...the second one is a fossil skeleton of a long-necked saurian.

The first one, thought, is the picture passed around the world concerning the find. Note the feathers (not found with the bones), and the birdlike claws (not found or in any way in evidence) and finally the beak (not found either. The skull was a normal saurian skull).

Conclusion, the artist's sketch is a wild flight of fancy unrelated to the actual evidence. But then, I think we see that the assertions of the article are much like that of the sketch.

Debbie made a comment about this dinosaur which I want to review (Her post is in bold)

Radar, brilliant! I sent this post to my friends. And you did answer creeper's question. Both creation and evolution are unobservable and untestable. What can be observed are complexity and order that shows purpose and design.

Evolutionists say that the proof of evolution is all the different kinds of life forms and since we live in a "natural world" that evolution just naturally happened. They just have to figure out how. Just find the missing links and it will all fit together, well, naturally.

Almost a year ago I read an article in my local news paper that I found quite amusing so I wrote a letter to the editor about it. The article was about a new dinosaur find near Green River UT. They called it a missing link. Following is the letter I wrote:

Regarding the headline Old bones yielding missing dino link”, I wonder how many people just accept this without question?

Evolutionists need to find transitional forms from one type of animal to another to prove their theory, but there are none, so the links are missing.

They said the creature was “mixed up” and in transition to a new “lifestyle” in eating. How does this happen? Does the diet change before the body form or does the body form change before the diet? Why do they think this creature was changing at all?

The illustration with the article shows a feathered bipedal dinosaur with chicken feet. The artist is giving us the impression that this creature is changing into a bird.

The article didn’t mention finding feathers with the bones; maybe the artist thinks all dinosaurs had feathers. But the paleontologist believes these creatures were changing from lighter, faster, meat eating dinosaurs into bigger, bulkier, plant eating dinosaur forms, not birds.

It seems to me that the artist and the paleontologist are the mixed up ones. D.B.

If any of you want to look up this dinosaur its called Falcarius utahensis.



A Reader responds with questions rather than answers
(in italics)

Debbie -
"Evolutionists say that the proof of evolution is all the different kinds of life forms and since we live in a "natural world" that evolution just naturally happened."

This is a bit of a simplification. If you'd like to find out what evolutionary biologists actually say, there are many pretty good books available. Would you like me to suggest one? Of course, perhaps you already know all this! I hope you'll forgive me, and even maybe do me a favor? Could you remind me about the different lines of evidence they see as supporting evolution? I always leave one or two out, would forget my own head if it wasn't attached . . .

"Evolutionists need to find transitional forms from one type of animal to another to prove their theory, but there are none, so the links are missing."

If paleontologists never, ever found any transitional fossils, that certainly would be a little disturbing. Why do you think there are none, Debbie?

"They said the creature was “mixed up” and in transition to a new “lifestyle” in eating. How does this happen? Does the diet change before the body form or does the body form change before the diet? Why do they think this creature was changing at all?"

Excellent questions! How might we find out the answers?

"The article didn’t mention finding feathers with the bones; maybe the artist thinks all dinosaurs had feathers. "

Another good point! Why might the artist think that (at least) some dinosaurs had feathers? More specifically, why might they have thought Falcarius utahensis had feathers? (You are completely right, as far as I can tell, that it was an assumption).

"But the paleontologist believes these creatures were changing from lighter, faster, meat eating dinosaurs into bigger, bulkier, plant eating dinosaur forms, not birds."
Agreed! What led them to believe this?

-Dan S.


Questions being answered by questions? So I went ahead and downloaded the original (I think) National Geographic article. My comments are in italics.

"Bizarre" New Dinosaur Shows Evolution to Plant Eating, Study Says
John Roach
for National Geographic News
May 4, 2005

No, it doesn't do that at all. No evidence of evolution to or from another creature will be presented.

First noticed by a black market fossil dealer, a new species found in a Utah boneyard may be a missing link in dinosaurs' trend toward vegetarianism. (See pictures of the new dinosaur.)

Paleontologists showed their gratitude by having the guy tossed in jail and subjected to a heavy fine. Nice guys...

The 125-million-year-old fossils, from the dinosaur Falcarius utahensis, were discovered in a graveyard of hundreds, if not thousands, of individuals. Though it may have eaten meat, Falcarius's teeth and guts show the first signs of the species's change toward a leafy, green diet, said James Kirkland, a paleontologist at the Utah Geological Survey in Salt Lake City.

No reliable dating evidence is presented.

"We can see definitive features of eating plants and know its descendents were much more full-time plant-eaters," Kirkland said.

Where is the evidence for these two assertions?

The newly discovered creature was likely cloaked in hairlike feathers and walked on two legs. Adults measured about 13 feet (4 meters) long, head to tail. They stood about 4.5 feet (1.4 meters) tall and had sharp, curved, 4-inch-long (10-centimeter-long) claws.

No feathers were discovered, so this hairlike feather remark is a product of the writer's imagination. Besides that, the animal is not in any way designed for any kind of flight, nor are the bones similar to bird bones.

Kirkland and his colleagues from the University of Utah in Salt Lake City and the George Washington University in Washington, D.C. report the discovery in tomorrow's issue of the science journal Nature.

Bizarre Dinosaur

Falcarius was a member of the therizinosaurs. These feathered dinosaurs with birdlike hips are considered among the weirdest ever discovered.

Some kinds of dinosaurs have been found with feather marks. None of their bone structures are truly birdlike. There is no evidence presented to show that these particular creatures had feathers.

Until recently, paleontologists argued over where the beasts fit on the evolutionary tree. At first, they were considered giant sea turtles, and then for years they were thought to be long-necked sauropod dinosaurs.

Hmm, evolving into a turtle or a bird, which is it???

"In the last decade or so we've come to understand that therizinosaurs evolved from a raptorlike group of dinosaurs," said Lindsay Zanno, a graduate student in geology at the University of Utah and a co-author of the new study.

"..but we have no proof of this, it just sounds good to us."

Falcarius, Zanno added, is the most primitive therizinosaur yet discovered and unequivocally demonstrates that the group evolved from Velociraptor-like ancestors.

To whom? What evidence backs this up?

Velociraptor was the fleet-footed, meat-eating dinosaur popularized in the movie Jurassic Park. The new dinosaur, Falcarius, did not descend directly from Velociraptor. Rather, Kirkland said, they are both descendants of a yet undiscovered common ancestor.

Going Veggie

Paleontologists believe the first dinosaur was a small-bodied, lightly built, fleet-footed predator.

Early on in dinosaur evolution, two major groups shifted to plant-based diets. But the fossil record of how dinosaurs went vegetarian, until now, was scant. Also, the plant-eaters' relationship to their meat-eating ancestors was unknown.

Thomas Holtz is a paleontologist at the University of Maryland in College Park. He said the Falcarius fossils are a clearer window into the shift from meat eating to plant eating than is available for equivalent transitions within other dinosaur groups. Prior to the Falcarius discovery, the likely intermediate forms between meat eaters and plant eaters "are either not yet discovered or are very fragmentary and so not recognized as such," Holtz said. That's what makes Falcarius so rare.

The Falcarius fossils show this transition in action among a group of dinosaurs, the birdlike meat-eating dinosaurs of the late Cretaceous period (about 140 million years ago). The finding allows paleontologists insight into long-nagging questions of evolution.

No evidence for any transition in action has been revealed up to now.

"If you're going to take a Velociraptor-type dinosaur and make a large-bodied, lumbering, bizarre-looking plant eater, what is it you need to do? What parts of the body need to change and how?" Zanno said.

Among the evidence for a dietary transition are teeth that look like tiny birch or elm leaves, a shape good for shredding plant material and shared with all other plant-eating dinosaurs, Kirkland said. In addition, the pelvis bone is expanded toward the side, a sign consistent with the larger gut size required to digest leafy greens.

The skeleton does not back up the second statement. The teeth are that of a possible omnivore but no certain evidence is presented here, either. The pelvis bone is bigger since the animal itself is bigger.

"To digest plants is more difficult than to digest meat," Kirkland said. "Plant eaters have big digestive systems to process plant material."

Later therizinosaurs, Zanno said, had shorter tails that balanced their more upright posture for eating leaves off trees. They also had shorter legs that better supported their heavier frames and shoulder joints that allowed the arms to reach branches above the head.

This doesn't sound the like path of evolution towards a bird.

But why go vegetarian? Kirkland said paleontologists can only speculate. But the dietary shift represented by Falcarius coincides with the appearance of the first flowering plants in the fossil record, she said.

Origin Rethink

Paleontologists working in China and Mongolia have been excavating therizinosaurs for about 50 years, accounting for a dozen species. Then in the late 1990s Kirkland, with Douglas Wolfe of Arizona's Mesa Southwest Museum, discovered the first recognized therizinosaur in North America, a species named Nothronychus.

Nothronychus, which was found in New Mexico, was dated to about 90 million years ago—significantly younger than the oldest therizinosaurs from Asia. Paleontologists reasoned that the group originated in Asia and used a land bridge between Alaska and Siberia to populate North America.

Falcarius, however, is 125 million years old, as old as Beipiaosaurus, the oldest known therizinosaur from Asia, which was preserved with feathers. According to Zanno, Falcarius is also more primitive than Beipiaosaurus. Also, some evidence suggests that 125 million years ago the land bridge with Alaska did not exist.

"We have to change our thinking," Zanno said. "It's possible [that therizinosaurs] may have evolved in North America and spread through Europe to Asia."

According to Kirkland, "anywhere in the whole Northern Hemisphere is up for grabs, and Europe is clearly the migratory route versus Alaska. People have a hard time remembering Alaska didn't exist" 125 million years ago.

Holtz agreed that this discovery suggests that early therizinosaurs migrated through Europe instead of over the land bridge between Alaska and Siberia. "I would suspect that Falcarius, or a dinosaur very similar to it, might one day be found in England," he said.

Fossil Trove

Kirkland and colleagues have excavated more than 1,700 Falcarius fossils at a previously overlooked, 2-acre (0.8-hectare) site at the base of the Cedar Mountain rock formation in east central Utah.

Gee, I wonder what would suddenly bury 1,700 Falcarius and enable them to be preserved?

The site was discovered by a fossil hunter who was selling the bones illegally on the black market. After he discovered parts of Falcarius's distinctive neck, he realized he had something important and turned over the site to paleontologists for further research.

"We're very fortunate he came forward. We've all benefited from that," Kirkland said. "But he did spend five months in jail and paid a [U.S.] $15,000 fine. He may be the first person to ever go to jail for fossil theft on public land."

A second mass mortality site was discovered in the area by Celina and Marina Saurez, twins who are geology graduate students at Temple University in Philadelphia. The pair believes both sites are associated with a spring.

Kirkland said several explanations could explain the mass mortality at the springs, including drought, toxic gases, or botulinum (a bacterial toxin). The dinosaurs congregated in large numbers at the springs, at least periodically.

Right, and one thing we see in nature is sudden burial of thousands of animals in the vicinity of springs, right?

Regardless of how the dinosaurs died, Zanno, the University of Utah graduate student, said the site—which contains the bones of babies, juveniles, and adults—will likely be the best place for therizinosaur research for centuries to come.

"We'll be able to do really cool stuff, like determine how fast the animals grew, see at what age they reached maturity. Are there physical differences between babies and adults, differences between males and females? How much variation is there in the species," she said. "These are future research questions."

Why research? Speculation and just-so stories have been the method to present this fossil to the world so far. Might as well just make something else up.

43 comments:

Middle_America said...

Another fascinating article. Nice.

Anonymous said...

Radar, once again you're wrong. There seems to be evidence that dinosaurs were covered in feathers, especially theropods like the one in the picture.

From the article
"Some theropod (“beast-footed”) dinosaurs were preserved complete with feathery plumage. Theropod is the name given to predatory creatures that walked upright on two legs, balanced by a long tail."

So it's not out of left field. I'm really having a hard time figuring out why you dismissed the picture so quickly, even cursory research indicates that it's an acceptable, if not mainstream representation.

-scohen, mudrat detector

Middle_America said...

The primary purpose for the idea of dinosaurs in feathers, is the belief our current common birds were derived from dinosaurs.

The question of when did the stomach change or the diet change the stomach rings true.

This same question can be applied to the idea of some species suddenly acquiring lungs rather than gills. When did they adopt lungs or why? If they lived within the water, what was the need to adopt lungs? How many times did they tried and failed? How can a species change so dramatically?
Logically, it simply doesn't make any sense.

Anonymous said...

"Questions being answered by questions?"

Crazy, right? But some old Greek dude was all into it . . . then again, he came to a bad end, so mebbe you have a point . . .

"So I went ahead and downloaded the original (I think) National Geographic article."

Yes, because original scientific research is almost always worked out in the pages of that pinnacle of popular scientific eye candy, National Geographic. C'mon! You honestly don't realize that this is a watered-down, sugar-filled, candy-coated presentation of the actual research, a single paragraph of which would leave most people tossing the magazine away with a yawn, and almost all the rest scratching their head in confusion?* There's a reason that they don't bother to sell Nature on the bookstore magazine stand or carry it in most branch libraries - only main and college/university libraries.

It's is a shame that the National Geographic article doesn't go a little more into detail into how and why they came to various conclusions, giving a little more insight into how palentology (and science in general) works. But that would leave less room for cheesy ads, not to mention the all-important photo-essay about a random zip code (which to be fair does fit with the whole geography thing).

For some reason, I can't help hearing your comments and questions in a sort of sneering tone that mocks the work and effort not only of J. I. Kirkland, L. E. Zanno, S. D. Sampson, J. M. Clark J, and D. D. DeBlieux (the authors of the Nature paper, but all the researchers whose work they build on, and by extension all efforts to make sense of our wonderful and mysterious world using intellect, logic, and science. But I'm sorta weird that way, so it's probably just me. This sort of questioning, critical mindset is a great thing (although I can't help but notice that it you seem to use it as only a one-edged sword). Many of these are fair, even good questions and comments that point out weaknesses in the popular presentation.

So, once again - good questions! How might you find out some answers? Where would you look? (And I'd still love to hear from Debbie re: my original questions.)

Let me just address a few points, though:

"Where is the evidence for these two assertions [[a] features of plant eating, [b]descendants much more full time plant eaters]?"

a) Several paragraphs down, the bit beginning "Among the evidence for a dietary transition . . " If you're not sure how diet can be inferred from teeth, an activity is available here.
b) There's a brief discussion further down about later therizinosaurs, although it's pretty light on the details (popular account, remember. They're presenting a discovery, not giving you a broad yet microscopically detailed introduction to dino evolution) It's possible you want a numbingly technical explanation of why Falcarius is seen as being related to the other therizinosaurs, and the even more numbingly technical description of why paleontologists think those guys were even more herbivorous. Sorry, you're not going to get it from a short little article in National Geographic. Where might you find this information?

"[a] No feathers were discovered, so this hairlike feather remark is a product of the writer's imagination. Besides that, the animal is not in any way designed for any kind of flight, [b] nor are the bones similar to bird bones."

I don't understand why you are convinced, here and elsewhere, that the article is talking about Falcarius evolving into a bird. It is correct that no feathers were preserved with the Falcarius specimens (feather preservation is pretty rare, and requires special conditions). It is an assumption, but a relatively reasonable one. Can you find the part of the article that gives you a clue why they might have assumed this? (There's also additional information not given in this article that would help you out, if you search online)

(b) "Therizinosaurs had . . pneumatized hollowed bones like all theropods." (source)

"Some kinds of dinosaurs have been found with feather marks."

Not just some kind of dinosaurs, though. What kind of dinosaurs does the article say were found with feather marks?

"None of their bone structures are truly birdlike."
I don't know what 'truly birdlike' would be, but you're probably right. Why should they be?

"There is no evidence presented to show that these particular creatures had feathers. "

Again, no feathers were found. There is no direct evidence that Falcarius had feathers. Why do they think it may have?

I wonder if I'm the one person struck by the contrast between 'it is described in a few lines in the Book of Job as big and scary and with a tail that moves like a cedar, so it must be a dinosaur!! in the previous post, and "The pelvis bone is bigger since the animal itself is bigger" - which is an excellent point (although as far as I can tell, they're referring to configuration rather than size, so it doesn't quite work, but still, this sort of thing is a real issue in evolutionary/ developmental fun, I gather . . .)

"To whom? What evidence backs this up? "

Where would you go to find out why paleontologists think Falcarius indicates that therizinosaurs evolved from Velociraptor-like ancestors?

""..but we have no proof of this, it just sounds good to us."

Again - where would you go to find what evidence makes them think this (or if, indeed, they are just making it up? - hint: they're not)

"Hmm, evolving into a turtle or a bird, which is it??? "

What's with this bird obsession? Note that they talk about how palentologists had varying interpretations over time (one of the things going on was that more material was being discovered. The last few decades have been a therizinosaur jackpot, between Utah, China, and Mongolia . . .)

"This doesn't sound the like path of evolution towards a bird. "

Dude, you got birds on the brain or something! It would be a pretty neat trick for Falcarius or its descendants to evolve into a bird, since these fossils are 125 million years old, and even Archaepteryx is roughly 25 or 30 million years older. These dinosaurs were part of a group - the maniraptoran dinosaurs - that appear to be closest to (and include) birds, but they weren't bird ancestors - more an offshoot, if you want to look at it that way.

[no comments in section detailing how new evidence caused paleontologists to change their thinking]

"Gee, I wonder what would suddenly bury 1,700 Falcarius and enable them to be preserved"
I don't know. Radar - what?

"Right, and one thing we see in nature is sudden burial of thousands of animals in the vicinity of springs, right? "
I've seen nature shows where droughts lead all sorts of creatures to stagger over and collapse next to waterholes. Better accounts note that the find is near a man-made geyser that vents CO2, which may have suggested one of the hypotheses. In general, which makes more sense - go with a scenario derived from myth and scripture, which has not been supported by geology for over over 15 decades, and is not supported by the specific site (there isn't evidence of raging rivers or rapid flooding, as far as I can understand from only slightly less predigested reports; there also appears to be evidence for at least two mass die-offs, and the surrounding sediments are carbonate-rich), or look for natural explanations, based on whatever actual evidence can be found?

"Why research? Speculation and just-so stories have been the method to present this fossil to the world so far. Might as well just make something else up. "

I understand you're annoyed that the pop-science magazine and the little newspaper articles didn't go into exhaustive (and often incomprehensible detail) - indeed, I agree that they should generally do more to explain why scientists came to this or that conclusion, and make the whole process clearer to the public. And this sort of attempted death of a thousand little criticisms, done without any apparent further research - even 10 minutes on google - or genuine attempt to understand, is certainly not unique to science-deniers (although you tend to see it among people going after popular representations of scientific research, from gender differences to evolution - although at best, it is based in a decent understanding of the field, and is actually a critique of poor reporting and popular filters). So - here are two people you might want to contact with your questions and concerns (can't vouch for current contact info):

James Kirkland
Utah state paleontologist, Utah Geological Survey
jameskirkland@utah.gov

Lindsay Zanno
doctoral student, Utah Museum of Natural History, University of Utah
lzanno@umnh.utah.edu

I look forward to hearing how they answered your questions, if you feel the available literature isn't adequate (and if you don't have access to a university library or major central public library, that might be the case).

I was going to list a couple of online sources, but really, they're not too hard to find!

* "Therizinosaurs are here proposed as shifting their dietary habit from predation to herbivory on the basis of the development of a number of features that seem convergent with clades of other herbivorous dinosaurs. The most significant of these features include small, leaf-shaped teeth, an edentulous beak, posterior displacement of the pubis and lateral expansion of the pelvis associated with greatly increased intestinal volume, and shortening of the tibia relative to the femur and an increased number of weight-supporting pedal digits—the latter two being specific reversals of the cursorial condition. Falcarius demonstrates the mosaic nature of this evolutionary transition, indicating that the dentition and pelvis were among the first hard-tissue structures to undergo modification. These changes probably coincided with modifications in food acquisition and digestion during the early stages of therizinosauroid evolution. Moreover, similarities between the dentition of the basal therizinosaur Falcarius and the basal oviraptorosaur Incisivosaurus**, in combination with their proposed sister relationship, raises the possibility that the common ancestor of these clades had already undertaken the initial steps in this transition." (The only bit I can find online - quite clear and relatively simple, actually . . .)

** well known for its sharp, incisive arguments.

-Dan S., "'the ultimate in bizarre,' resembling 'a cross between an ostrich, a gorilla and Edward Scissorhands'"

Wait, that's Therizinosaurus . . . hang on . . .

-Dan S., likely covered with shaggy, hair-like “proto-feathers" . . .ok, well, close enough . . .

Anonymous said...

"The primary purpose for the idea of dinosaurs in feathers, is the belief our current common birds were derived from dinosaurs."

Do you mean the primary rationale? Or are you arguing that the idea of feathered dinosaurs was cooked up to support the idea that birds evolved from dinos?

Anyway, I don't believe you're correct, at least not nowadays (pre-1990s you might well have had a point). Try reading this for starters, if you'd like . . .

"The question of when did the stomach change or the diet change the stomach rings true. "

Well, superficially it rings quasi-Lamarckian or suchlike - (the giraffe stretched its neck to reach the tree, so its offspring had longer necks / it needed to have a taller neck, so it evolved one) but that's not quite fair. It is an interesting question. Remember, your local library or bookstore - and certainly online retailers! - probably has a number of interesting books on evolution (from a scientific perspective) that you might find quite informative - I can list a few, if anybody wants. And then there's that internet thingy . . .

. . . but anyway, what evolution would suggest is that for some reason Falcarius ancestors who, as part of the natural variation one sees in the living world, had traits allowing them to digest a wider range of foods than their siblings - including plants - were more sucessful. The article notes: " . .. why go vegetarian? Kirkland said paleontologists can only speculate. But the dietary shift represented by Falcarius coincides with the appearance of the first flowering plants in the fossil record, she said." (This also seems to be when ants started on their stunning trek toward world domination, radiating wildly from a small group of insects to the enormous number of species know today).

In some cases, an adaptation that evolved due to one kind of selective pressure seems to ends up helping out with something entirely different - something called preadaptation or exaptation - although there doesn't appear to be any evidence of that here.

"This same question can be applied to the idea of some species suddenly acquiring lungs rather than gills. When did they adopt lungs or why? If they lived within the water, what was the need to adopt lungs?"

These are good questions. Instead of giving you the (possible, as best as we can figure out) answers, I'd like you try to find them out yourself. You could start with a google search or two. Don't get into AIG or ICR sites insisting that Tiktaalik isn't a transitional fossil, it's not, it's not, it's not! (at least not yet) - look for things that appear to present mainstream (I'm being nice and not saying 'actual') science. TalkOrigins is an interesting resource, but you might prefer to look at a site less immersed in the battle for science - less bombast and all, and it does rely on volunteers . . .

If you're really stuck, I could give some suggestions, but try it for a bit. You can also start with just the thought-experiment route - can you think of any conditions under which a water -dwelling fish might benefit from organs that could gather oxygen from the air? You could flesh that out with real-world observations, too - are there any modern fish that have lungs? What do they use them for? Are there any fish that don't, but might find them useful given how they live? (although you probably could, er, skip that one, since it might muddy the waters . . .)

I look forward to hearing the results of your research.

Sincerely,
Dan S.

A Hermit said...

Um, instead of expecting an article in National Geographic to have all the definitive answers to your questions, maybe you could write to the people actually doing the research, or purchase a peer reviewed article?

Please take note, also, that when these people make assumptions about something, like the protofeathers, they take pains to make it clear that they are making assumptions, that this a "best guess" based on similarities to other fossils of the same kind which are known to have such protofeathers, but there is no conclusive evidence at this point..

That's called honesty, Radar. They are making an assumption (a pretty reasonable assumption, mind you) and they make that clear. This is unlike the fatih based approach you offer, which says "I know because I just know". That may be OK in Sunday School, but it aint science...

creeper said...

Dan and hermit,

you took the words out of my mouth re. Radar treating a brief National Geographic article as an exhaustive description of the subject matter with the unwarranted implication that science is clueless on the subject and making it up out of whole cloth.

But whatever... this point has already been covered eloquently, so I just want to pick up on a smaller point here:

"Gee, I wonder what would suddenly bury 1,700 Falcarius and enable them to be preserved."

A mudslide or a sudden downpour of volcanic ash come to mind. But I take it, Radar, that you'd like to insinuate that only a global flood could have achieved such a phenomenon. I'm not sure why a local flood or mudslide wouldn't be up to the task, but I'd just like to insert a wee point re. what kind of predictions the different theories yield regarding what we would find where.

The theory of evolution would predict that, if we find a site with the fossilized remains of, say, Falcarius, that that particular layer would only contain other organisms (plants or animals) from the same era as Falcarius. We won't find human remains in the same layer, we won't find horse remains in the same layer etc. etc.

YEC would predict that caught along with the Falcarius we would find all kinds of organisms that an evolutionary biologist would assign to vastly different eras. Not only that, but we would see such a jumble in just about every deposit. It wouldn't be a rare thing at all - it would be so common and universal that the notion of evolution occurring over millions and millions of years, and layers being deposited over such a long time would never have seemed plausible in the first place.

Those are the two clear and competing predictions.

And we consistently find confirmation for only one of these predictions.

Never for the other.

What happens to a theory when a major prediction resulting from it never comes true, and the predictions from a contradictory theory consistently come true?

Anonymous said...

"or purchase a peer reviewed article?"

$30!!? What, they think I'm made of money? $3, ok, but $30! (and you should see how much an individual subscription costs - which is why I don't get Nature, or Science, or even any of the nice archaeology or cultural anthro journals delivered to my door : (

"they take pains to make it clear that they are making assumptions"

I can't remember who, but supposedly some creationist person or outfit was criticizing one of the Tiktaalik journal articles because they used tentative language . . . can't win for trying . . .

"you took the words out of my mouth"
Oh man, creeper, now you have Meatloaf stuck in my head! . . . which invariably goes into mental song-shuffle mode, and I end up humming 'I would do anything for love . . .' for the rest of the day . . .

"What happens to a theory when a major prediction resulting from it never comes true, and the predictions from a contradictory theory consistently come true?"

It lives on forvever in ideological syndication, kinda like Lucy and Gilligan and Hawkeye and Jessica Fletcher and all the other inhabitants of rerunistan. Really, creationism is just like the TV Land channel for early-19th century natural theology . . .

(Ok, so that's more IDC . . . modern creationism is really kind odd, from what little I know of its history . . .)

-Dan S., who won't do that . . .

creeper said...

Dan, let me sleep on it, baby.

radar said...

Not one of you have addressed the question that first caused Debbie to write and me to post.

Why did the sketch artist draw such a misleading picture? It is a graphic lie. The beak where there is no beak nor any evidence of a beak. The bird's claws where there are no bird claws or evidence thereof. The feathers where the evidence is very sketchy as to whether there were feathers. No wonder I "dismissed the picture so quickly".

The picture is a fraud, totally, and not one of you has even addressed that.

Creeper may inspire me to do an entire post on what creationists and macroevolutionists might expect from the fossil record. His idea of what a creationist would expect is wrong but of course it falls to me to present that...

creeper said...

Dan,

"$30!!? What, they think I'm made of money? $3, ok, but $30! (and you should see how much an individual subscription costs - which is why I don't get Nature, or Science, or even any of the nice archaeology or cultural anthro journals delivered to my door : ( "

Unfortunately Nature.com is somewhat diligent in rooting out Bugmenot as well.

Qyxajif...

creeper said...

"Creeper may inspire me to do an entire post on what creationists and macroevolutionists might expect from the fossil record. His idea of what a creationist would expect is wrong but of course it falls to me to present that..."

Looking forward to it, Radar, hopefully without too many strawmen.

creeper said...

"Not one of you have addressed the question that first caused Debbie to write and me to post."

Kind of ironic that you of all people should complain about a question going unaddressed...

"Why did the sketch artist draw such a misleading picture? It is a graphic lie."

It's pretty clearly labeled as an artist's conception. If it were a lie, it would show something that you knew not to be true, and that you knew the artist knew not to be true.

"The beak where there is no beak nor any evidence of a beak."

The reason a beak was hypothesized to have been at the front of the skull was due to the presence of teeth along the sides of the jaw, but not at the front.

"The bird's claws where there are no bird claws or evidence thereof."

I see very clear claws in the pictures at the University of Utah article that hermit linked to.

"The feathers where the evidence is very sketchy as to whether there were feathers."

From the news release from the University of Utah:

"Kirkland says Falcarius likely was covered with shaggy, hair-like “proto-feathers,” which may or may not have had a shaft like those found in bird feathers.

No feathers were found with the Falcarius fossils. Feathers rarely are preserved, but “a number of its close relatives found in China had feathers [preserved by unusual lake sediments], so the presumption is this animal too was feathered,” Sampson says."


"No wonder I "dismissed the picture so quickly".

It is a work in progress based on recent finds and reasonable assumptions; it is not claimed to be proven fact beyond a shadow of a doubt. If it had been claimed to be the latter, you would have been right to dismiss it.

"The picture is a fraud, totally, and not one of you has even addressed that."

How is it a fraud?

IAMB said...

The primary purpose for the idea of dinosaurs in feathers, is the belief our current common birds were derived from dinosaurs.

Personally I still think the best evidence so far for the dino-bird link is the medullar bone from MR1125 (better known as the T-Rex with the preserved soft tissues). Sure, we've found dinosaur fossils with fossilized feather imprints, but the medullar bone has something even better: the type found in that particular specimen is only found in female birds (specifically the ostrich femur).

The link becomes stronger every day... it wasn't invented just to prop up evolution. It was predicted by evolution and is panning out quite nicely.

radar said...

"MR1125 (better known as the T-Rex with the preserved soft tissues)"

Isn't this a kind of a death knell to long-agers? Another example of soft tissues? (The australian find is another, the kneebone).

Anonymous said...

"The beak where there is no beak nor any evidence of a beak."

My understanding is that evidence for a beak is often preserved in bone when the horny coating has long since vanished. I don't know if this is the case here.

"The bird's claws where there are no bird claws or evidence thereof."

Forget the U of U picture - there are claws clearly visible in the picture in Radar's post!

"Isn't this a kind of a death knell to long-agers? Another example of soft tissue"

Yay - it's just like watching ping-pong! Here we go:
Creationist Claim 371.1 and the long, long, long version - Dino Blood Redux.

But Creeper, I gotta know right now!

And of course, the whole baseball broadcast interlude is literally talking about baseball - oh god, imagine a future where people are arguing over that?!

- Dan S., neither barely 17 nor barely dressed . . .

Argh, this isn't helping . . . I may have to listen to Tatu. That's a surefire way to get any song unstuck from one's head. Of course, than you have Tatu songs running through your head (running through your head runningthrough your head), which isn't actually an improvement . .

highboy said...

I still want to know what "Qyxajif" means, and all the other crazy letter combos going on around this site.

creeper said...

Highboy, it will come to you in due time. Loofo.

creeper said...

Dan, go for the Koyaanisqatsi soundtrack. Or Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds. Or something by John Cage.

Well maybe not the last one, but two out of three ain't bad...

creeper said...

"And of course, the whole baseball broadcast interlude is literally talking about baseball - oh god, imagine a future where people are arguing over that?!"

Is there any other way to see it?

(One of two immortal lines uttered by Jack Nicholson in 'As Good As It Gets'.)

Anonymous said...

"I still want to know what "Qyxajif" means, and all the other crazy letter combos going on around this site."

I don't think it's possible for you to know or understand what Qyxajif means. I think most people here will agree with that. :-)

--- Sincerely, Fred R. (Hixfkn...!)

Anonymous said...

Highboy, what's with this weird mix of religion and violence? It's freaky.

Fred R.

radar said...

So now I'm praying for the end of time
To hurry up and arrive

'Cause if I gotta spend another minute with you

I don't think that I can really survive

I'll never break my promise or forget my vow

But God only knows what I can do right now

I'm praying for the end of time,
It's all that I can do

Praying for the end of time, so I can end my time with you

Oh, to see who Meatloaf was singing to....

http://www.newwavephotos.com/EllenFoley.htm

A Hermit said...

"Why did the sketch artist draw such a misleading picture? It is a graphic lie."

No, it's an "artist's impression". No one who takes this subject seriously would suggest it constitutes proof of anything. You see, there's a lot more to science than just the pretty pictures...

radar said...

"Why did the sketch artist draw such a misleading picture? It is a graphic lie."

No, it's an "artist's impression". No one who takes this subject seriously would suggest it constitutes proof of anything. You see, there's a lot more to science than just the pretty pictures...


Is there really? Funny how it is the pretty pictures and stories that pass as evolutionary science and are taught in classrooms. Plus, I have macroevolutionists commenting on this blog who are trying to defend the picture. I say that the picture typifies what macroevolutionist say is true as opposed to what they can prove.

Anonymous said...

"Well maybe not the last one, but two out of three ain't bad..."

Frankly, Creeper, that's not getting us nowhere . . .

Phillip Glass - could that be what Highboy's means in the immigration comment thread, when he says he'd rather piss [G]lass than read Lakoff? (Actually, either way . . . urgh.) (And what's wrong with Lakoff, Highboy? I mean, you could say his stuff is banal, or silly, or obvious, or ridiculously overblown . . . but pissing glass? Youch!

All I can say is that trying to find fossil evidence for people and dinosaurs living together* is like trying to find a Coupe de Ville hiding at the bottom of a Cracker Jack box.

Koyaanisqatsi
Hopi is an awesome language. If I had language learning skills somewhat better than the average artichoke (I was really slow with English, too, and that's my first language!) I would spend my free time learning Native American languages . . . It's really depressing how many of them are on the verge of extinction . . .

I should watch the film again, too . . . The music turns up in Gilmore Girls, too, which is really odd . . .

Hey! It's gone! Meatloaf isn't stuck in my head any more!!

. . . oh. 'Cause it's been replaced by the Gilmore Girls theme song. Noooooooooooo!

"I still want to know what "Qyxajif" means, and all the other crazy letter combos going on around this site."

Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn!

Oh oh . . . I think blogger is really bloggered this time . . . the geometry! It's all . . . wrong!

(oh, wait, that's just blogger . . . )

Highboy . . . the mystery of the crazy letter combos? Well, let me just say, as I type this, the answer is, ah, right in front of me . . .

-Dan S., Ph.D., Miskatonic University

* Talk about undermining marriage! After all God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Stegosaurus!

creeper said...

"Funny how it is the pretty pictures and stories that pass as evolutionary science and are taught in classrooms."

??

That may well be the filtered view you get on YEC sites. Please try to read up on evolution from a neutral source. Wikipedia is a good place to start.

"Plus, I have macroevolutionists commenting on this blog who are trying to defend the picture."

As being a reasonable hypothesis, yes, based on the different points we provided. As being "truth", no, and that was made clear.

What's a macroevolutionist, by the way?

"I say that the picture typifies what macroevolutionist say is true as opposed to what they can prove."

Where did a so-called macroevolutionist say this picture was "true"?

It's a cute little strawman, Radar ("this picture is a macroevolutionist fraud!"), but this was a weak post to begin with, and you're just digging yourself in deeper by trying to defend it.

Yes, the drawing is speculative, based on reasoning that has been explained to you. If you have a problem with the reasoning, then tell us.

No, it has not been presented as "truth" or "fact".

Now get over it.

creeper said...

"Well, let me just say, as I type this, the answer is, ah, right in front of me ."

Ah... but its meaning will always remain elusive, no?

radar said...

creeper, are you not a macroevolutionist?

I made my case and it is simple-

The picture shows an animal with bird feet. There is zero evidence for ths at all.

The picture shows an animal with a beak. There is no beak.

The picture shows an animal covered with feathers. No feathers were found. There are similar dinosaurs that have been found with some feathers. To my knowledge, no similar dinosaur has been proven to have feathers covering the entire body. There is no evidence to prove whether this animal had any feathers at all.

Is that too simple for you guys? No evidence, no evidence, and assumptive reasoning.

So until you actually have evidence, you, Creeper, are the one who must "get over it"

A Hermit said...

"There is no evidence to prove whether this animal had any feathers at all."

Yes there is. The fact that similar dinosaurs have been found which clearly did have protofeathers (those would be transitional form of feather, by the way) means it is reasonable to think that this particular specimen may very well have had them, too. Not conclusive, to be sure, but perfectly reasonable; certainly reasonable enough to include the possibility in an ilustration of what the creature "may have" looked like.

Like I said before, there's a lot more to science than the pretty pictures. Illustrations are intended to provoke the imagination and inspire further investigation, not to serve as the final, definitive word on any particular species, and they do not form the basis of the scientific conclusions about the find, so attacking the validity of the science on the basis of the illustration is pretty weak. It's what people do when they're too lazy to do their homework and get all the facts.

A Hermit said...

To make an analogy; would you accept the argument that differences in the representation of Christ's appearance in art throughout the ages qualify as evidence against his existence?

Basically the same argument you're trying to make here...

IAMB said...

Isn't this a kind of a death knell to long-agers? Another example of soft tissues?

Not really. I know you don't care for TalkOrigins, but Gary Hurd's "Dino Blood and the Young Earth" really is a good place to start on that find.

The details would take more time to write out than I have at the moment, but "preserved" and "fresh" are not remotely the same thing. I toyed with the idea of posting something on the research since last month's Discover had an article about Schweitzer's work... but never quite got around to it. Maybe I will have to after all.

If you'd like, I could probably email you a pdf of the actual research paper on that particular specimen... then if you have questions I'd be happy to answer them.

Jeffahn said...

radar,

There were no flesh or organs found on the bird skeleton -do you believe that the bird didn't have any of those either?

Check this out:

http://www.theonion.com/content/node/29976

Do you think it had eyes? Maybe it was a cave-dwelling bird! Who knows?

Btw, happy Qojgn to everyone here!

Anonymous said...

"http://www.theonion.com/content/node/29976"

I had forgotten about that, Jeffahn! It's just so . . . beautiful!

(Archaeology dig unearthes stunning find - well preserved specimens of a race of skinless, organ-less 'skeleton people'!) : )

And it actually has some bearing on the whole monsters/dragons/dinosaurs? debate:

""The implications are staggering," Hutchins continued. "We now know that the skeletons we see in horror films and on Halloween are not mere products of the imagination, but actually lived on Earth." . . .

. . . According to Hutchins, the skeletons bear numerous similarities to humans, leading him to suspect that there may be an evolutionary link between the two species . . .

. . . Other experts disagreed. "The evidence of an evolutionary link between humans and skeletons is sparse at best," said Dr. Terrance Schneider of the University of Chicago. "Furthermore, it is downright unscientific to theorize that skeleton life originated in Egypt merely because mummies, another species of monster, are indigenous to the area. Spooky creatures are found all over the world, from the vampires of Transylvania to the headless horsemen of Sleepy Hollow.

You see! More shoody evolutionary assumptions. . . oh, and monsters! But where do dragons live?

And the artist's rendition - totally unfounded! There's no evidence that swords or nifty skull shields were found at the site - what are they trying to imply?!

: )

"Not one of you have addressed the question that first caused Debbie to write and me to post."

Which was, more or less, "The artist is giving us the impression that this creature is changing into a bird." (Ok, not a question, but still.) Of course, the artist almost certainly had no such intention, but was working off a) fossil evidence (give me $30 and I'll tell you how to what degree), b) knowledge of apparently related dinos, and c) well, art - including knowledge of similar animals, analogues, and just plain ol' creativity. Plus, it's like saying that because I assume that Radar's (hypothetical) cousin is more or less light-skinned, based on the evidence at hand, I'm giving the impression that his cousin is going to give birth to Radar's dad. Falcarius lived after birds evolved!

"Evolutionists need to find transitional forms from one type of animal to another to prove their theory, but there are none, so the links are missing." [etc.]

Both you and Debbie come up with things that are good criticisms of how science and scientific findings are presented to the higher-end general public. And critical thinking, questioning, insistence that assumptions be proven (although why you think National Geographic is the place for it . . .?) - that's all good. But that's not what's going on here, that's not the point. The Falcarius researchers could show up here, the world's leading experts in the relevent topics could show up (some overlap there, I think, actually), and go through everything, all the data, all the details . . . does anybody think it would make one whit of difference? I mean, if you think I'm wrong here, call me out on it, but really . . .
Like the song goes: "Baby, we can talk all night/But that ain't getting us nowhere."

Oh well.

"What's a macroevolutionist, by the way? "
An evolutionist with a slow metabolism. And big bones.

But he's not calling us Darwinists, so hey . . .
(Thank you, Radar.)

" there's a lot more to science than just the pretty pictures..."

Actually, one of the problems is that we don't have enough pretty. For some time now I've been half-wishing that the NCSE would raise a bunch of money and buy ad time on major channels to have attractive celebrities talk about how evolution ed. was important. Sure, it's cynical and stupid and makes a mockery of any real understanding of science, etc. - but I would be very interested to see the next round of Gallup polls on the subject . . .

Finally, I think it's very interesting, the line of argument that an artistic representation taking a bit of (fairly reasonable) artistic license is a lie contrasted with the idea (with possibly more coming) that dragons and other beasts of myth, legend, and folklore - creatures of story, of art - are real creatures.

It actually supports some research on biblical literalism and overall . . . ~worldview, I guess you could call it. Attitudes towards ficta, etc.

There's a Political Animal comment thread on The Magic of Narnia that gets sorta into some of these issues . . .

Ondygo ondgyo ondygo!

-Dan S.

Anonymous said...

More National Geographic dino fun:

Meat-Eating Dinosaur Was Bigger Than T. Rex

-Dan S.

radar said...

"Finally, I think it's very interesting, the line of argument that an artistic representation taking a bit of (fairly reasonable) artistic license is a lie contrasted with the idea (with possibly more coming) that dragons and other beasts of myth, legend, and folklore - creatures of story, of art - are real creatures."

Dan, thank you for the lead-in.

I would admit that you are right about the evidence. But I can't do that... Grins!

(PS - Ellen Foley was pretty hot in her day, huh?)

Some of this is to-may-to, to-mah-to. Tiktaalik is seen as a transitional form to some, as another lobed fish to others. Both sides have their points. In truth, wouldn't you have to say that "Tik" is not transitional but just closer in form to what the transitional would be, if one were to be found?

The point concerning the artist's sketch is precisely the fact that it was on National Geographic and magazines and newspapers around the world. The normal public primarily will absorb and remember the picture, not the words below the cutline. I find that to be frustratingly deceptive. I spend a lot of time with teenagers and I know how they absorb knowledge. The ones who really care about this branch of science will surprise you with the lengths they are willing to delve into the evidence. But most just look at the surface, take what the first impression may be, and allow that to count as their understanding of the issue in totality.

You make some good points about why the artist drew "Falc" as he did. The beak is, to me, a b-i-i-i-i-ig stretch whereas the feathers are more understandable. But picturing the animal with bird's feet is indefensible IMO.

It is laughable, in a way, since I am sure that macroevolutionists (you guys asked me to not use the "D-word" so I am left with that) are not attempting to characterize "Falc" as a bird predecessor per se. But I guarantee you that the public in general saw it just that way.

Feathers as found on Therapods and those found on birds, to my understanding, are not the same. Is it not more accurate to call the dinosaurian plumage as feather-like?

Anonymous said...

Very relevent stuff at Chris Mooney's The Intersection - The Science Wars Are Over, Long Live the Science Wars:

"Do you see why I am worried? I myself have spent sometimes in the past trying to show the "lack of scientific certainty" inherent in the construction of facts. I too made it a "primary issue." But I did not exactly aim at fooling the public by obscuring the certainty of a closed argument-or did I?"
(above being a quote from Latour)

- Dan S., socially constructed

creeper said...

"creeper, are you not a macroevolutionist?"

Am I now or have I ever been a member of the macroevolutionist party? I don't know. I asked you to explain what it meant, and in response you ask me if I am one. Maybe it's the kind of thing you know when you see it, but I'll try the definition route first:

What is a macroevolutionist?

"I made my case and it is simple-"

You claimed that a clearly labeled artist's conception based on reasonable speculation amounted to fraud.

"The picture shows an animal with bird feet. There is zero evidence for ths at all."

(I see you've dropped the 'claws' claim and replaced it with this 'bird feet' one.)

I look at the picture of the skeleton, and I look at the artist's sketch, and the feet look pretty similar to me. So does the head, for that matter.

"The picture shows an animal with a beak. There is no beak."

The head looks very similar in shape, for starters. The reasoning behind the beak makes perfect sense: teeth along the side of the jaw, none at the front. Cartilage is less often preserved, but we can reasonably speculate, from similar organisms as well as from function, that a beak made of soft cartilage supported teeth at the front of the jaw.

"The picture shows an animal covered with feathers. No feathers were found. There are similar dinosaurs that have been found with some feathers. To my knowledge, no similar dinosaur has been proven to have feathers covering the entire body. There is no evidence to prove whether this animal had any feathers at all."

That's right: this is speculative, as has been pointed out more than once. The picture is a clearly labeled "artist's conception".

"Is that too simple for you guys? No evidence, no evidence, and assumptive reasoning."

Like I said earlier: It is a work in progress based on recent finds and reasonable assumptions; it is not claimed to be proven fact beyond a shadow of a doubt. If it had been claimed to be the latter, you would have been right to dismiss it.

It isn't, and so your complaints about it being a fraud or not being supported by ironclad evidence are entirely misplaced.

"So until you actually have evidence, you, Creeper, are the one who must "get over it""

See above. Now get over it.

A Hermit said...

"Feathers as found on Therapods and those found on birds, to my understanding, are not the same. Is it not more accurate to call the dinosaurian plumage as feather-like?"

They're called "proto-feathers", Radar. If you actually read some of the literature on the subject you're arguing about (or even one of my comments) you'd know that.

Of course, some later finds appear to have more modern feathers, and " soft scaly skin...ike the skin modern birds have on their feet."

They also pretty clearly had clawed, birdlike feet and skulls that are suited in shape and form to carrying a beaklike appendage, like a turtle's.

You know, the more I look at this the more impressed I am with that artist's impression...

radar said...

"Feathers as found on Therapods and those found on birds, to my understanding, are not the same. Is it not more accurate to call the dinosaurian plumage as feather-like?"

They're called "proto-feathers", Radar. If you actually read some of the literature on the subject you're arguing about (or even one of my comments) you'd know that.

Well, duh, why do you think I said that, then? Proto-feathers, or primitive feathers, which are not feathers but feather-like. Since I had actually read up on the subject. Proto-feathers are not the same as bird feathers.

Yeah, that artist's impression looks good to you, based on the evidence? Including the bird beak and the yellow barn chicken feet? Nice....

Anonymous said...

I think the real question here is whether Baba Yaga's hut really had chicken feet . . .

Anonymous said...

Radar: "The picture shows an animal with a beak. There is no beak."

Nature article: "The most significant of these features include small, leaf-shaped teeth, an edentulous beak, posterior displacement of the pubis . . ."

"Some of this is to-may-to, to-mah-to. Tiktaalik is seen as a transitional form to some, as another lobed fish to others. Both sides have their points"

What do you mean? This isn't a matter of regional pronounciation, or even of taste (Coke or Pepsi?) It's a matter involving the interpretation of all sorts of specific and rather complicated details, which I am laughably unqualified to discuss at all meaningfully, but will try my best if you insist . . . (Where might you find better information?)

'Shape of Earth: views differ.'

" In truth, wouldn't you have to say that "Tik" is not transitional but just closer in form to what the transitional would be, if one were to be found?"

I don't get this. Are you trying to say something about the nature of science re: truth and certainty, or something about the definition of transitional fossils?


[. . . To the tune of Paradise by the Dashboard Light . . .]
I remember every little thing
As if it happened only yesterday
Digging up in Greenland
And not another skull in sight
And I never saw a fossil
Looking any better than you did
Paleontologists,
They were wishing they were me, all right . . .

Now that transition is oh so close and tight
It never looked so good, it never looked so right
And we're knowing more and more 'bout the history of life . . .
Knowing more and more 'bout the history of life . . .


Though it's sad and lonely up upon dry land
I can see Tiktaalik looking towards the strand . . .

[Tiktaalik fossils start singing:]
Ain't no doubt about it
we were kind of odd
'Cause we looked really like a fish
and yet a tetrapod . . .

Ain't no doubt about it
Tikky's got to go and shout it
Ain't no doubt about it
we were kind of odd

[middle Tiktaalik solo:]
'Cause we looked really like a fish
and yet a tetrapod . . .*

* Ok, this could be expressed better, but c'mon . . .

-Dan S., no comment

creeper said...

"In truth, wouldn't you have to say that "Tik" is not transitional but just closer in form to what the transitional would be, if one were to be found?"

In what way would a transitional form be different from Tiktaalik, in your estimation?

Let's see if you can answer this without a strawman.