New Study: Not Good For Evolutionary Paleontologists

The scientific method can perform a broad array of different experiments from testing stem cells, drugs for diseases, to creating a material similar to “transparent aluminum.” A very interesting study was conducted which tested what happens to fish before they are fossilized…

“By watching fish as they rot, scientists have discovered “patterns” that could help interpret some of the oldest and most important fossils.”  -BBC

A very good test to a certain degree, but questions remains why did an experiement like this one wasn’t done before?  One one think that questions like, “Do skeletons and soft tissues undergo dramatic transformations as they rot?” should have been answered. Because, if these changes occurred then interpretations would be most likely affected by observational data. In Nature News, Daniel Cressey writes…

“An assumption underlying the interpretation of many fossils is that as the animals rot they lose their identifying characteristics in a random order, says a team of palaeontologists from the University of Leicester, UK. By studying how animals decay, they have shown that this assumption is flawed…In practical terms, this means that as something decays it seems to retreat through its own phylogeny and descend the tree.”

“Decay bias” is a very bad scientific practice, and it’s also bad that most in the field already have the evolutionary bias. Philipp Donoghue at the University of Bristol cautioned, “It’s certainly going to annoy a lot of palaeontologists who have rather blithely interpreted fossils,” he said.  “A bunch of fossils we thought were primitive vertebrates actually now fall into a dustbin and tell us nothing about the evolution of vertebrate characters.”

Fossil interpretation is a very tricky subject to practice because it requires understanding all the conditions the animal went through in the real world not just in a lab. For instance, what happens to fish who were fossilized while giving birth or when they were preserved in rock instantly while having lunch? This experiment was indeed, interesting as it reveals a decay bias in evolutionary paleontology and long overdue to be conducted but it didn’t help them understand how fish would rot in a global flood or other real life situations!

Advertisements

11 thoughts on “New Study: Not Good For Evolutionary Paleontologists

  1. From the same ‘Nature news’:

    “This non-random decay may not have been adequately accounted for by some researchers. “In some organisms that have been interpreted there has been way too much speculation and the data have been extended beyond what is scientifically acceptable,” says Purnell.

    Philippe Janvier, a palaeontologist at the National Museum of Natural History in Paris, agrees. “Some fossils have clearly been over-interpreted.”

    Notice the ‘may note’, ‘some organisms’, and ‘some fossils’.

    Not good, but not at all bad.

  2. “In some organisms that have been interpreted there has been way too much speculation and the data have been extended beyond what is scientifically acceptable,” says Purnell.

    Some people have been saying that for a looooooong time.

  3. Dom: “Some people have been saying that for a looooooong time.”

    As my mother used to say, even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

    The “some people” that Eelco refers to are scientists who do field trips, observe fossil environments, perform experiments on tissue, employ computer simulations to investigate possible skeletal configurations, motions, strengths, and who then write peer-reviewed (that is, pre-criticized) papers directed to qualified colleagues for replication and further research.

    Dom’s “some people” perform none of these activities, and do not publish in reviewed journals.[1] If Dom knows of any paper in any of the creationist literature that contains interpretations from hands-on investigation of any actual fossils, please let us in on the secret.[2]

    In fact, Dom’s people wouldn’t know a hamate from a scaphoid. The Discovery Institute’s Casey Luskin is a risible example. In an extended critique of the transitional nature of Tiktaalik, he complained that the vaunted wrist bone was not to be found in a photo. As he was informed within several milliseconds, the bone was not only in the photo, it was labeled—Casey just didn’t recognize the technical name for “wrist bone.”

    And still creationists wonder why scientists laugh at them.

    ==============

    [1] Answers Research Journal professes peer review. However, Andrew Snelling, the only staff member, refuses to name any specific person who has reviewed an ARJ paper.

    [2] One ARJ paper (1:95-98) is a purely statistical analysis using assumed probabilities of fossil find locations. No interpretation of the configuration or appearance of the animal. or its relation to others. The usual screeds on the supposedly wild inaccuracies of radio-isotope dating are even less relevant.

  4. In fact, “creationist paleontologist” is an oxymoron. Paleontologists study stuff that’s millions of years old. For creationists, the clock stopped 6,000 years ago.

  5. Michael: “why did an experiement like this one wasn’t done before? ”

    Did you really think this was the first,/i> experiment in the decomposition of ancient organisms? The results are new; the inquiry is not. The field of taphonomy—how organisms decay and become fossilized—has been around since 1940. It studies necrology, decomposition, diagenisis, biostratinomics, encrusation, and erosion..

    One might also ask, since they have such an interest in disproving scientific analyses of fossils, why have no creationists ever conducted any experiments whatsoever of this kind?

    Michael: “‘Decay bias’ is a very bad scientific practice, ”

    More evidence of Michael’s utter unfamiliarity with paleontology. Decay bias is not a practice, it’s a phenomenon. A category error.

    Nature News: “In practical terms, this means that as something decays it seems to retreat through its own phylogeny and descend the tree.”

    Michael grasps at stalks of threshed grain. In order to advance a contention that evolution is wrong, he must report scientific findings that reinforce evolution.

    If this report is accurate (I have no Nature access here), then this finding may provide yet more evidence of evolutionary pathways. At present, fossils provide only a snapshot, one point in time along their phylogenetic tree. It would be a great advance indeed if fossils can also provide evidence of their forebears along that tree. Genetic analyses provide independent evidence to populate phylogenetic trees, but they provide few clues as to the physiognomy of earlier forms.

    If this research should provide significant data, it may be a valuable tool in evolutionary research. Thus it is passing strange that Michael should revel in it.

  6. Upson,

    Biblical Creationists do field trips and observe fossil environments. So you are incorrect to assert the ‘some people’ I refer to ‘perform none of these activities.’

    I dare say, however, from what I know of you, that the fact that you are incorrect about this will not deter you in your prejudiced and misrepresentative rantings.

    The degree of access to tissue samples is another matter; but certainly informed observations are made by Biblical Creationist on the basis of reported results; just as indeed the majority of Evolutionists are dependent upon reported results rather than doing the sampling and research themelves.

    Concerning computer simulations, again informed observations may be drawn from published results; the same results most Evolutionists depend upon too. But if simulations merely reflect Evolutionist presumptions, then those are obviously not as helpful to independent analysis of the facts.

    And Biblical Creationists also publish papers, although access to the most well known larger circulation literature may be restricted because of its Naturalistic disposition.

    And as a point of clarification and accuracy, though it may be of no interest to you whatsoever, the people I alluded to are not those propounding Intelligent Design theory, but Biblical Creationists.

    There are actually some very interesting Biblical Creationist critiques of Evolutionist interpretations of fossils around.

  7. Dom: “And as a point of clarification and accuracy, though it may be of no interest to you whatsoever, the people I alluded to are not those propounding Intelligent Design theory, but Biblical Creationists.”

    Au contraire! We have a point of agreement! Mirabile dictu.

    My most acerbic contumely is reserved for the denizens of the Dishonesty Institute, who, like Peter, attempt to deny their religious goals. In The Edge of Evolution, Michael Behe avers that the Intelligence that created life may be uncaring or even evil. William Dembski has stated that the Intelligence that produces specified complexity (his incarnation of the philosophers’ stone) may not in fact exist in an ontological sense, but may be a naked principle or law.

    Intelligent Design is also entirely untestable—as P.A.M. Dirac once sneered at a clumsy proposal, it’s not even wrong. Their attempts at prediction are hilarious. “Junk DNA will be found to have a function,” they trumpet, “because a good Designer don’t make bad stuff.” But, when facing down obvious design defects (the recurrent pharyngeal nerve comes to mind), the rejoinder is, “Wul, designs don’t have to be good designs.” This handily meets Oliver Wendell Holmes’ definition of “a nose of wax that may be twisted this way and that.” Young-earth creationism is at least wrong.

  8. Dom: “And Biblical Creationists also publish papers,…”

    Yes, yes. The only creationist journals that even pretend to be reviewed or addressed to peers are Answers Research Journal and the BSG occasional papers.[1] I did mention why papers in ARJ are not relevant to the present subject. One peripheral BSG paper mentions H. floresiensis fossils to support high post-Flood intrabaraminic diversification rates.[2]

    A large number of news articles appear in Answers in Genesis concerning fossil finds. An inordinate number of them are devoted to alleged frauds in mainstream paleontology.[3] All of the articles are clearly aimed at laymen, and not at adepts who might use them for further investigation. Few specifics. Mere repetition of bare claims. A plethora of exclamation points and scare quotes.

    Typical is a 2006 report of pro-avis in AiG. “Vertebrates: Animals with Backbones”

    “Take a look at the idea of pro-avis in Fig. 26-B. Can you see any problems in getting it off the ground? Perhaps you’ve seen children tie towels onto their arms and try to fly. If you ever tried it yourself (as I once did), you found that all that flapping created more drag than lift!”

    Does this sound like a scientific analysis of a fossil?

    A number of links to AiG news reports have been severed. Might these be retractions by stealth in the face of evidence to the contrary? Something to think about.

    All I ask is a citation to a particular paper addressed to peer critique (rather than to laymen) that employs evidence to interpret specific fossils according to creationist principles and comes to testable conclusions or predictions that can be replicated or falsified. Pick one, and defend it.

    Dom: “There are actually some very interesting Biblical Creationist critiques of Evolutionist interpretations of fossils around.”

    D’accord. I’ve read some of them. However, I’m interested in papers demonstrating why creationists might be correct, not why some aspect of evolution might be wrong.[4]

    .

    PS: Don’t complain about persecution to deny fossil samples. Stand in line like everyone else. Didn’t you hear the angry snarls about major paleontologists having to wait 15 years to get their phalanges around Ardi’s remains?

    =====================

    [1] The Disco Institute’s Progress in Complexity went off life support 5 years ago, although, like Lenin, the corpse is still on display. Their Biologic Institute (which seems not to possess a street address) has thus far brought forth nothing at all. One peripheral BSG paper mentions H. floresiensis fossils for supporting high post-Flood intrabaraminic diversification rates.

    [2] Translation: evolution rates after the Flood were extremely high.

    [3] The favorite, of course, in Piltdown Man, found in Dom’s backyard. The irony here is that, according to the consensus of evidence, the fraud was perpetrated by a Catholic priest who intended that the fraud be discovered.

    It should be noted that creationists themselves did not discover any of the frauds; all were uncovered by scientists using normal scientific processes.

    [4] Evidence against Theory A is not evidence for Theory B.

  9. AiG quoted by U/D: “Perhaps you’ve seen children tie towels onto their arms and try to fly. If you ever tried it yourself (as I once did), you found that all that flapping created more drag than lift!”

    AiG’s attempt at sneerage recalls another point.

    Michael is fond of praising modern technology for imitating nature. For centuries, men had pursued flight by imitating birds. Leonardo da Vinci. Hilarious tintypes of 19thC inventors flapping wood-and-cloth wings.

    But aviation never got off the ground until the Wrights and Irving Langmuir abandoned nature’s bird model and constructed flyers with fixed wings—entirely unlike birds or insects.

    Reynolds’ number, guys. You have to take Reynolds’ number into account.

    The same problem foredooms the ID analogy of the bacterial flagellum to an outboard motor. (Does this mean that the flagellum was not “specified” before Ole Evinrude invented the outboard motor in 1905?) Should you make a bacterium as large as a motorboat, the bug would thrash and thrash without getting anywhere at all. If a motorboat were as small as a bacterium, the motor would stall before the boat had moved a micron. So … how is a motorboat a “specification” for a flagellum?

    Next time, remember Reynolds’ number.

  10. U/D: “All I ask is a citation to a particular paper addressed to peer critique (rather than to laymen) that employs evidence to interpret specific fossils according to creationist principles and comes to testable conclusions or predictions that can be replicated or falsified. Pick one, and defend it.”

    Apparently Dom has returned to painting his bizarre nightmares in transparent watercolors.[1]

    ==============

    [1] Not a put-down. In fact I am a surrealism fan myself, and own a couple of Dali limited editions. This genre require both the craftsmanship of representational art and the vision of abstract art. Current favorite is Vladimir Kush, who got his start right here on this island and still has a major gallery here. Would that I had discovered him before everyone else did, and his prices hit the stratosphere!

  11. “Fossil interpretation is a very tricky subject to practice because it requires understanding all the conditions the animal went through in the real world not just in a lab.”

    Michael states the obvious.

    But then he doesn’t realize it’s obvious to everyone else.

    “For instance, what happens to fish who were fossilized while giving birth or when they were preserved in rock instantly while having lunch? ”

    And they say there are no stupid questions. A counterexample. Michael, fossilization takes anywhere from years to tens of thousands of years. You are probably thinking of instant freezing, as of fish that you buy at the grocery.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s