September 19, 2012

"Feathered Dinosaurs Drive Creationists Crazy."

Says Slate, indicating that it's fun to taunt religionists.

245 comments:

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AllenS said...

God gave man two eyes so you'd have one left if the neighbor kid shot the other one out with his BB gun.

Some day I'll tell you why God gave man two balls.

chickelit said...

Nomennovum said...

How do you know?

The very name "intermediate" is a give away. But if you consider most any generic process, it's obvious.

virgil xenophon said...

Count me in as a Nathan Alexander fan..

Methadras said...

Icepick said...

Jurassic Park would've sucked if T. Rex had been all fluffy.

Yes, it would have. But JP II would have been even funnier! Imagine a giant fluffy T-Rex careening through San Diego!


Well, at least through bario logan down into national shitty. It would have looked like a Godzilla (Gojira) movie. :D

Methadras said...

Nathan Alexander said...

This statement is an oxymoron. By definition creationists do not believe in evolution.

This is demonstrably false.

Intelligent Design is evolution run by a creator.


Or evolution designed by the creator. That's even to hard for the stark evolutionists to fathom since they would fall back on their regression argument of who created the creator.

Methadras said...

Andy R. said...

Show the math, or shut up.

Most smart people have realized by now that creationists are too dumb to argue with. So creationists get ignored, and they stamp their feet and whine and tug on scientist's shirt sleeves and demand people pay them attention. It's funny and sad all at the same time.


Oh, you mean like the attention whoring twink you are. Got it.

John Lynch said...

If evolution, as a theory, is wrong it does not follow that creationism is right.

Disproving one does not prove the other.

Creationists need positive proof.

chickelit said...

John Lynch said...
If evolution, as a theory, is wrong it does not follow that creationism is right.

Disproving one does not prove the other.

Creationists need positive proof.

______________

If evolution, as a theory is wrong (your conjecture) then another theory is needed to disprove.

Has God been disproven?

Paddy O said...

"The reason that God put feathers on dinosaurs is because he has a sense of humor."

Finally some good theology!

And I'm serious about that.

Curiously enough I spent several hours today talking to college students (well, lecturing at for the most part, not that I didn't give them chances to speak up) on the doctrine of Creation, which included discussions of evolution and science/theology conversations (of which there are many good ones).

I have some delightful powerpoint slides full of beautiful pictures and one has a video of elephant seals farting on the beach. Text is mixed in, but it's just talking about a theology of creation so most people aren't actually interested in that, when there are sharp lines to be drawn and battles to be waged and all.

Bob Ellison said...

Nathan Alexander, you ask: "What do you think challenging orthodoxy does?... I don't reject Evolutionary Theory in favor of ID or creationism, I said that above."

That makes sense to me. Einstein said "I, at any rate, am convinced that He does not throw dice." Science is a practice that requires skepticism on all fronts.

I don't reject God or atheism. I reject stupidity and lack of logic.

However, evolutionary theory is pretty much done and good. I'm not going Al Gore here: there's no consensus or anything. But c'mon.

Anyway, I appreciate the way you have conducted this argument.

bagoh20 said...

Whatever mutation you decide to use to call it a chicken, that mutation first appeared as an egg. The egg wins.

chickelit said...

@bagoh20: But what if the mutation occurred in utero? Wouldn't your surety be challenged by the age of the avian fetus?

chickelit said...

I see what I did wrong there...chickens aren't hatched in uteri.

But is a chicklet really an egg 2 seconds before it hatches

bagoh20 said...

Isn't there a problem with problem with Nathan's math in that it's not a single species mutating, but all of them potentially simultaneously? If we start with 1 million species, then the 9 years per mutation becomes 9 million species years.

Am I missing something?

bagoh20 said...

"But is a chicklet really an egg 2 seconds before it hatches"

Don't you remember Pollo Real?

bagoh20 said...

Furthermore, even a single species could mutate into more than one other species, especially if there are millions of individuals in a variety of environments.

phx said...

There really should be math and other prizes given out at Althouse every week or so. Prizes from Amazon.

John Lynch said...

If what we observe shows that what we think is wrong, then it's wrong.

If God created the universe, then looking at the universe is the ultimate arbiter of what God did. The actual universe is closer to God than anything else. What we think about it doesn't matter compared to what exists. Observing creation itself is a direct line to God's own thoughts when he made it all. Right?

What we see suggests that the universe is a very complex place. I don't like creationism because it tries to simplify the universe for no reason other than to make it easier to understand. It also attempts to simplify God- if He did make the universe, shouldn't it be horribly complex are hard to understand? Why would that be surprising?

For most people what matters is what we are supposed to do now that we are here. Faith is deciding to believe in God. Religion is what to do about it afterward. Almost no one can understand the underlying cosmology of the universe, but almost everyone can understand how to be a moral person.

jvermeer51 said...

The contempt shown certain religious people has nothing to do with evolution. There are all sorts of beliefs that are open to question, e.g. big foot, astrology, magnetic bracelets, tm. Evolution is a club which is used to intimidate and humiliate a group of people outside of liberal orthodoxy.

John Lynch said...

I agree that most people who like to use evolution to prove their superiority have no idea how it works, or how to explain it, or how science works, or much of anything else.

It's a big non sequitur. Science and evolution have nothing to do with faith at all. People can choose to believe in God or not. The universe won't care one way or another, and will be the same for anyone who cares to look.

Either way, we all die.

bagoh20 said...

"There are all sorts of beliefs that are open to question, e.g. big foot, astrology, magnetic bracelets, tm."

But in fairness, we do, including Christians make a lot of fun of those people and their beliefs. I don't care if you are a believer, I'm agnostic, but you gotta expect people who rely on the provable/disprovable are gonna laugh at you some.

Now most who fashion themselves fact based also have their unproven beliefs, but they are better than you even if they can't prove it. Some things you just know in your heart.

Quaestor said...

Evolutionary biology, my favorite topic!

Bob Ellison wrote:
Jurassic Park would've sucked if T. Rex had been all fluffy.

Oh, come now... Does something have to be scaly to be terrifying?

****

Nathan Alexander wrote:
Almost everything evolutionists said about dinosaurs and their place in evolution over the last 100 years is wrong, null, and void with the discovery of feathered dinosaurs.

One could also say that everything creationists have said about dinosaurs is wrong, null, and void from the beginning, but that would be needlessly cruel. In fact the man who first described and named the Dinosauria, Sir Richard Owen pointed out the strong similarities between some dinosaurs and modern birds, and that the two groups might be descended from a common ancestor, or that, more radically, Dinosauria might have given rise to Aves (when Owen was superintendent of the natural history department of the British Museum the chronology was not at all clear, so the idea that Dinosauria was more ancient than Aves was mere speculation).

When Dinosauria was split into its two great clans, the Saurischia (the so-called "lizard-hips") and the Ornithischia, the opinions about bird origins often centered on the the "bird-hipped" clan based on the shape of the pelvis and the horny beaks these creatures evolved in place of front teeth. Thomas Huxley, Darwin's bulldog, pointed to six points of similarity between dinos and bids which he took to be conclusive (though he couldn't decide whether the Saurischians or the Orithischians were the ancestral group). However, Othneil Marsh was convinced that the theropods were the progenitors of Aves and not the "bid-hips".

It was only much later in 1925 when Gerhard Heilmann published his Origin of Birds that the orthodoxy changed. Heilmann pointed out that all known dinosaurs had either reduced collar bones or had none at all. Fused clavicles (wishbones) are absolutely essential for bird flight and are diagnostic for Aves (even flightless forms like kiwis and penguins have wishbones). When Heilmann was writing DNA and molecular genetics were unknown. Biologist were of the opinion that once characters were lost due to natural selection they couldn't re-appear, thus dinosaurs, having lost their clavicles, couldn't be ancestral to birds. Instead birds and dinos were deemed to be sister classes arising from a common stem.

Since Heilmann the science has developed considerably. We know realized that evolution doesn't eliminate old characters completely. Instead the genes for these characters are moved into the "junk" file where they can be called upon again when circumstances change. Also the "missing" clavicles have been found. It's now certain that many therapods had wishbones.

In short the dino-bird connection was the orthodox position from the mid-1850s until 1925, and then became orthodoxy again in the 1980s. The case of the feathered dinos only clinched the accepted model, it didn't revolutionize dinosaur paleontology. What it revolutionized was bird paloentolgy, which for too long was dominated by Heilmann and his followers, most notably Alan Feduccia of UNC.

Feduccia is hostile to the dino-bird connection, chiefly because he is the author of The Origin and Evolution of Birds, at one time the standard textbook on the subject. He is also jealous of UNC's loss of prestige to arch-rival NCSU paleontology department, home of Dr. Mary Schweitzer, the discoverer of fossil collagen in Tyrannosaurus rex.

John Lynch said...

I like my religions honest. If I believe something on faith I'm not going to pretend that it's the result of scientific inquiry or objective fact.

Most "scientific" theories about how we should act are simply theology by a different name.

See Communism and Environmentalism. It's just religion that won't come clean.

Synova said...

You know... if someone read and actually believed the Bible they'd know that birds came before mammals.

And fish before birds.

Quaestor said...

Correction:
However, Othneil Marsh was convinced that the theropods were the progenitors of Aves and not the "bid-hips".

Should read "bird-hips", i.e. the Orinthischia

Quaestor said...

You know... if someone read and actually believed the Bible they'd know that birds came before mammals. And fish before birds.

Of course the Biblical concept of bird doesn't include non-avian therapods. And even if it did, Dinosauria predates Mammalia by only a few million years. Given the granularity of the dating they could be said to be nearly simultaneous in their origins.

Well, I'll give this one to Genesis, even a blind squirrel finds a nut occasionally, or in this case a blind watchmaker.

Freeman Hunt said...

Can I just +1 two statements by John Lynch?

What we see suggests that the universe is a very complex place. I don't like creationism because it tries to simplify the universe for no reason other than to make it easier to understand.

and

I agree that most people who like to use evolution to prove their superiority have no idea how it works, or how to explain it, or how science works, or much of anything else.

Quaestor said...

Another correction:
We know realized that evolution doesn't eliminate old characters completely.

Should read We now realize that evolution doesn't eliminate old characters completely. An auto-correction artifact (easy excuse).

Quaestor said...

I agree that most people who like to use evolution to prove their superiority have no idea how it works, or how to explain it, or how science works, or much of anything else.

I must differ. Evolution is quite easy to understand. All one really needs to understand is:

1) DNA is a molecule that replicates itself, but occasionally replicates imperfectly.

2) That random changes in the genes are occasionally beneficial and bestow an advantage over those individuals without the change.

3) That Nature rewards success and punishes failure. To be rewarded an individual only needs a slight advantage over its competitors.

4) That changes accumulate in populations until the population can no longer freely interbreed, thus two or more species arise from one parent stock.

John Lynch said...

Quaestor, you aren't most people. Inherent in each of those points is an understanding of a number of concepts that most people don't "get."

Also, I don't quite agree with point 3. Nature doesn't exist. Random chance is all there is. Plenty of fucked-up critters survive to reproduce and plenty of healthy animals die anyway (observe the humans around you). It's only on the very margin that evolution results in any improvement. It can just as easily result in bunch of inbred idiots living on an island.

The world is a messed up place. I believe that the mass extinctions of the past weren't really tests so much as random murder. Sure, some species were more suited to survive but I'm sure others just happened to be under the meteor when it hit. Maybe they would have survived if it hit somewhere else.

There's no divine plan in evolution, either. It's random. We aren't the end result of a process.

There's no real reason intelligent life couldn't have arisen much earlier than it did. Or much later.

Evolution is random chance, which is uncomfortable for people.

Nathan Alexander said...

Isn't there a problem with problem with Nathan's math in that it's not a single species mutating, but all of them potentially simultaneously? If we start with 1 million species, then the 9 years per mutation becomes 9 million species years.

The most important part of the math is setting up the problem right.

I probably didn't set up the problem correctly.

But it is up to those who are so passionately defending Evolutionary Theory to provide the correct math.

(the correct math would probably include exponential growth, so yeah, that angle may be a blind alley, thanks...but maybe not, I'd like to see a math professor set it up...I said I can understand it, not that I've kept up with my math skills over the last few decades)

In any case, that's only one way to look at it. The other way still looks like you would have time for only 23 discrete systems, that all mammals have generally in common...and there are more systems than that, and more diversity than just mammals.

The math still doesn't leave enough time (and this next thing is the most important part) under our current understanding of genetic mutations.

It is possible that scientists will discover and explain a period where there were more genetic mutations. Perhaps the asteroid strike encourage beneficial mutations somehow?

I'm not against Evolutionary Theory, to refresh your memory. I just don't think the current version is even close to being a slam dunk.

Nathan Alexander said...

Anyway, I appreciate the way you have conducted this argument.

Aw, shucks. I got too strident a few times in my calls for math.

Freder and Andy R. irritated me with ignorance bolstered by hypocritical faith in their high priests.

Synova said...

"Of course the Biblical concept of bird doesn't include non-avian therapods."

The human concept of the Biblical references for "bird" doesn't include non-avian therapods.

Fussing at people who take Genesis completely literally and then demanding it be taken completely literally is sort of cheating, I think.

I've been taught that Genesis is a rearward facing prophecy so it makes about as much sense as Ezekiel. I think that those who try to map it literally are wrong.

And I'm surprised by the "bird" thing. The several days of sort of incomprehensible divisions of earth and heaven and water and firmament and lights in the heavens and water divided by land and then plants and then creeping things crawling out of the sea, fish, then birds, then land animals. That surprises me too.

It's not all in line with how we think that the world formed, but it is right in odd moments and almost, poetically, a vision of parts of how we understand the accretionary formation of the world.

bagoh20 said...

God was a fan of Rube Goldberg. He loved that guy. He would laugh and laugh at him, and always said: "Now that guy was not one of mine. I don't know where he came from, maybe evolution or something." That was always after few beers. Early in the evening he was usually all serious, bitching about the Gnostics or bragging about the Amish or some other brown- nosers, and holding them up as his best friends with us right there like we were chopped liver or something. Still, I liked the dude. He was always a pretty good driver, even drunk. And smart as all get out. He could definitely pull off evolution. I moved to L.A., so we don't get together anymore. He hates to fly.

Oh, did I say "God", I meant Mohammed.

Quaestor said...

Nature doesn't exist. Random chance is all there is...It can just as easily result in bunch of inbred idiots living on an island.

I use the term in the sense that it is used in science. Nature is the sum of things as they are, governed by knowable laws and principles -- as opposed to supernature, which is the state of things governed by divine whim.

I'm not as reductionist as you are. Random chance plays a role, but there's much more going on than that. I like Richrad Dawkins summation (though I don't agree with Dawkins on much else) He put it this way: Evolution is the non-random survival of randomly varying replicators. That's quite good since it doesn't limit evolution to the natural world alone. Darwinian principles have been used by humans in software development and robotics, so far its been only used experimentally because most commercial users of software and robots prefer the occasional crashes and loops to the random behavior a robot or program must employ to evolve new rules.

About islands and advantages: Islands are special cases where "maladaptive" changes can be beneficial and are "rewarded". For example, the Dodos of Mauritius -- the Dodo was a giant flightless pigeon. Being flightless is not usually an advantage for pigeons because foxes love squab, especially flightless squab. (Oddly, given the vulnerability of flightless pigeons, flightlessness is a character salted away in the junk file of the pigeon genome. It crops up in several fancy pigeon breeds.) However, on an island without predators a flightless pigeon and grow large, and thus out-compete flying pigeons for food (seeds and tubers on the ground) and nesting spaces. The Dodos weren't idiots, they just did count on the Portuguese.

bagoh20 said...

No one ever expects the Portuguese.

Quaestor said...

Correction:
The Dodos weren't idiots, they just did count on the Portuguese.

Should read The Dodos weren't idiots, they just didn't count on the Portuguese.

Quaestor said...

Correction
However, on an island without predators a flightless pigeon and grow large, and thus out-compete flying pigeons for food

Should read However, on an island without predators a flightless pigeon can grow large, and thus out-compete flying pigeons for food

Quaestor said...

Fear, surprise, ruthless efficiency, and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope!

Revenant said...

The most important part of the math is setting up the problem right. I probably didn't set up the problem correctly.

You certainly didn't. :)

First, millions of species survived the extinction event, so your starting number was a bit off. The impact wiped out around half of all species.

Secondly, the relevant metric isn't "number of species", but "number of living things". Each birth is a fresh roll of the mutation dice. Unsurprisingly, the number of species within a phylum is inversely proportional to the typical lifespan of members of that phylum -- e.g., 90% of species are insects, while less than one-tenth of one percent are mammals.

Assuming the insect population has been roughly constant over the last 65 million years, and given a typical insect lifespan of 20 days, that gives us approximately 11,862,500,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 insects born since the meteor hit. So on average, one out of every 1,600,000,000,000,000,000,000 insect births produced a viable new species that is still around today.

bagoh20 said...

Revenant, That's the way I see, but when you express numbers that large, please use creation notation, it saves the zero key.

Unknown said...

What is the scientific answer to the question, "Why is there anything at all?"

Seriously.

bagoh20 said...

"Why is there anything at all?"

I'm not sure there is even a religious answer to that. Either: Why does God exist, or why did he create anything?

I can understand it though. Sometimes I walk into a room to do something, and then I forget why. Creation might have been one of those things.

Rusty said...

"Why is there anything at all?"


Why not?

Rusty said...

Chip Ahoy said...
on the literal belief in the Jewish fairy tales that made it into the Bible

Even there, that sounds antagonistic but it's not. That's how literature was collected. But they were not fairy tales, that part is antagonistic, they were the oral tradition passed down from centuries that attempted to make sense of the world. The Jews wrote that down. They were very serious people. They captured for us the oral traditions of the day, kept the best of it, and organized that and argued about it, reorganized that and reorganized their reorganization. They were really the only people on earth with a truly serious religion. All the other peoples had religions, of course, and they were serious about it, of course, but nothing that matched the Hebrew people, those people were serious. Speaking of evolution, the Bible does show the development of man's understand of God, from beginning to end you see the relationship between humanity and deity develop. Except the very end, leave out Revelations, that's anomalous. It was a mistake. Nobody gets that. Comparatively, the other religions were idol worship and often had licentious elements to them.



Have you read Daniel Boorstins,"The Creators"?

He theorizes that western civilization is the way it is because we embraced the hebrew creator god. The god that created the universe out of nothing. Whereas the other major religions deal with a universe already made. That the intellectual leap to explain the creation of some thing out of a void lead to our system of inquiry and thus our desire to create.
I'm not explaining it well.
Read it.

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