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Terry W. Colvin <firstname.lastname@example.org> Voice: 538-5392
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Subject: No brontosaurus?
Author: SKEPTIC Discussion Group <SKEPTIC@JHUVM.HCF.JHU.EDU> at smtp
Date: 29/6/1995 4:05 PM
From: Stephen Carville - email@example.com
"York H. Dobyns" <ydobyns@TUCSON.PRINCETON.EDU> writes in response
to my citing Archaeopteryx as transitional fossil:
>Actually, there's a subtler and even more pernicious form of the "no
>transitional forms" argument out there: you get rid of transitional
>forms by defining them away. For example, Archaeopteryx is clearly,
>to a reasonable observer, transitional between dinosaurs and birds;
>skeletally it's a small dinosaur, but it had feathers, and the
>feathers on its arms were configured into weak but marginally
>However, among modern life forms feathers are an unambiguous
>diagnostic for birds, and are frequently used as such in
>introductory biology texts: all birds have feathers, and only birds
>have feathers. So a creationist can use a definition like that as
>though it were a logic gate, and declare: "Archeopteryx had
>feathers, ergo it was a bird. QED. No transitional forms. Any
>dinosaurlike fossil we find, ever, will either have scales, and
>therefore be a dinosaur, or have feathers, and therefore be a bird.
>No transitional forms." The fact that some of these "birds" have
>teeth, long tails, and clawed fingers on their wings is conveniently
>ignored among the triumphant trumpeting.
You're right, and given the level of knowledge in the usual audience
it can actually work. I mentioned Archie because it was the first
and was discovered so soon after publication of _On the Origin of
Species_ that it's impact on the evolution debate was profoundly
greater than if it has been discovered last year. There are
hundreds of examples of transitional forms to pick from now even
without mentioning the lines that eventually died out. I just
recently found out about Diarthrognathus which had a double jaw
joint - the reptilian and mamallian jaw joints were side-by-side.
In Morganucodon, the double joint was present but the mamallian jaw
was dominant and the reptilian part had begun to migrate inward
where it's believed it would eventually become the bones of the
middle ear. These are both stunning transitional forms and much
harder to dismiss with a two valued feathers vs. scales argument.
Remember too, I'm just a dilletante at this stuff, think what a real
expert could do.
I donlt know for sure but I would think that the knowledgable
creationist (how's _that_ for an oxymoron?) would avoid the no
transitional forms argument. It's just too easy to drop 10 or 20
examples out of hundreds available and make them look stupid(er).
Some of the whale fossils are really extraordinary and the evidence
for horse evolution is better documented than Madonna's sex life.
In formal debates creationists are out to win points with an
audience that is usually not very literate on the subject so they
concentrate on overwhelming their opponent with a 10 inacuraccies
per minute format (if you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffled
them with bulls**t). This is one reason I agree with Jim Lippard
that the formal debate setting is not the place to take them on
unless you can actually get them to debate the tenets of
"creationism" instead of merely attacking "evilution"
Stephen Carville - firstname.lastname@example.org
When elephants fight, it is the the grass that suffers.