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Re: Dinosaurs to birds

In a message dated 1/23/99 10:10:16 AM EST, jbois@umd5.umd.edu writes:

<< This seems illogical to me.  When we don't have enough data we should say:
 "We don't know.  It could be luck or it could be replacement of one group
 by another due to differential success."
 Luck should never act as a kind of default hypothesis.  The tendency to
 ascribe it is only a superficial fad, one that, with any luck, will go
 away some day soon. >>

Perhaps I can illustrate the idea of "luck" here a little better. Consider the
California super lottery, wherein the numbers are chosen via a device that
circulates several lightweight numbered balls in a container until one of them
pops out. If we knew the >exact< initial conditions and the >exact< locations
and magnitudes of the circulating forces, we could predict which ball would
pop out, thereby removing the "luck." But knowing the initial conditions to
the required exactitude is impossible (due, among other things, to
Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, not just the secrecy of the people running
the lottery); the best we can do is describe the behavior of the balls in
general terms as "chaotic."

In the case of extinctions, the details of the mechanisms are lost from the
fossil record. There is no way to confirm just how the bolide impact killed
off each individual organism, which is what you would have to do in order to
advance a hypothesis beyond "luck."