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science or non-science?
I was going to write in and make the comment that lamniform sharks were
not ectotherms (lamnids ARE endotherms - see Block, B.A. and J.R.
Finnerty 1994 Endothermy in fishes: a phylogenetic analysis of
constraints, predispositions, and selection pressures. Env. Biol.
Fish. 40: 283-302), as suggested in one submission, but I relented.
However, in the next message I was faced with the notion that "since
there is no way to take the temperature of a living dinosaur at
periodic intervals for several days or weeks, the endothermy/ectothermy
debate cannot be resolved. Since neither hypothesis is falsifiable, the
whole debate is unscientific." I couldn't let this one go!
I agree that much of the debate on dinosaur physiology has been
unproductive, and that arguments from both sides have tended to
polarise the issue. However, much of what is discussed in this list
relates to the behaviour of extinct animals. Does that mean that the
discussion is unscientific? I believe that we have learned a lot about
dinosaurs through this debate. By comparisons with living animals and
the use of modelling techniques we can test many hypotheses about
dinosaur physiology. Recent discoveries have considerably improved our
capability in this regard. We may never know the exact answer for a
given dinosaur species, but we have certainly moved a lot closer to an
understanding than when "A cold look at the warm-blooded dinosaurs" was
published in 1980. There is a major difference between falsifiability
and "resolution" of a scientific debate. Many (but not all) believe
that falsifiability is an important criterion for science. But
resolution of a scientific debate involves the final answer. I don't
think this is a likely outcome in any scientific endeavour, whether it
involves extinct organisms or not.