[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index][Subject Index][Author Index]

Re: dinosaur extinction



On Wed, 18 Feb 1998 Dinogeorge@aol.com wrote:

> The biggest problem with extinction theories is that they simply cannot be
> confirmed. One cannot run an experiment with control groups and so forth, so
> one is left with "maybe this" and "maybe that."

You forgot one other possibility; you also have statistics.  :-)
(a joke).


> ... Might as well save
> your breath.

I disagree (with humbleness).  Having read your articles for a number of
years
now, I suspect that you were being a bit fasceceous in your
last statement, but in case you weren't:

A lot can be learned by studying hypotheses that either
can't be proven (or can be proven but not in this eon).  For one thing,
one can study (or learn) the limitations of the data (Is it complete? Is
it accurate?
Is it mis-interpreted? Is it actually representative of the rest if the
data?
What data should be included? What data should be left out?  etc.,
etc.).

Secondly, studying potentially unsolvable puzzles tells us a lot about
how to construct a *good* hypothesis (or, alternatively stated,
how *not* to construct a hypothesis).

If it weren't for the multitude of both well thought-out extinction
theories and crack-pot extinction theories, we wouldn't be blessed
with one of the most useful of theoretical hypotheses in the last decade
(the paper by Signor and Jere Lipps; the hypothesis later described as
the Signor-Lipps Effect).  This paper discussed the limitations
inherent in all extinction theorizing, and you can't tell me *that*
paper
is not a real contribution to paleontology and biostratigraphy!  :-)

That said, I do believe that both Rigbys ideas on Paleocene dinosaurs,
and Raup  et al.s  idea of  some type of periodicity in mass
extinctions
ARE potentially falsifiable (or at least, to some degree of strong
doubt).

The same can be said about the "T. rex was a pure scavenger" hypothesis
of Horner.
One unequivocal example to the contrary *should* kill it off
permanently.
(except perhaps on this list, of course!)

Non-falsifiable hypotheses by themselves don't move science forward.
But discussing their weaknesses is useful none-the-less.
And if you can rule out the "junk" theories, that gives you a better
idea of how many of the *many* remaining extinction scenarios still have
merit.
Hope this wasn't too long.

Just my 65 +/- .001 cents.

                         <pb>